Participation in the digital economy provides a major opportunity to diversify regional economies, develop and improve global economic participation, improve workforce attraction and retention, and enable competitiveness. Moreover, deployment of digital infrastructure has significant non-economic impacts such as the facilitation of enhanced wellbeing, improved service delivery, opportunities for education and training, and improved liveability and social connectivity. Deloitte’s Connected Continent II Report estimates Australia’s digital economy will be worth $139 billion by 2020 (7.3% of GDP); bolstering digital inclusion is an essential component of the task of developing economies and communities in Australia (Deloitte Access Economics, 2018).
The Torres and Cape Indigenous Councils Alliance Inc (TCICA) is an alliance of 13 councils in the Cape York and Torres Strait. The TCICA region covers more than 131,000 square kilometres and is home to around 29,530 people, 65.7% of whom are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders compared to 4% in Queensland. The entire region is classified as remote or very remote according to the Australian Statistical Geography Standard Remoteness Structure used by the Australia Bureau of Statistics (ABS).
The region faces significant socio-economic challenges with 71.1% of people classified as being in the most disadvantaged quintile on the Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas (SEIFA), compared to the Queensland rate of 20.0% (ABS, 2016). The median total family income for the region is $61,296 per year, compared to the Queensland average of $86,372 per year. These figures include Weipa, which has a median family income of $144,404 per year.
With digital connectivity being crucial to the many aspects of how we live, having a clear understanding of the connectivity issues across the region is essential. TCICA commissioned The Cairns Institute and the Digital Media Research Centre at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) to develop a Telecommunications and Digital Connectivity Strategy for the TCICIA region. Prof Hurriyet Babacan is the project lead and the research team consists of Jennifer McHugh, Dr Amber Marshall (QUT), Dr Narayan Gopalkrishnan and Prof Allan Dale. The project commenced in 2020 and a full report to the TCICA Board was delivered in July.