Wild Donkeys and Solar Satellite Internet Down Under

Thanks to the Australian Government’s Indigenous Communication’s Program (ICP) Australians in the most remote indigenous regions are now able to connect to the outside world via solar powered satellite public phones. Activ8me.net.au, a leading company in the installation of these phones has come across numerous difficulties that are as wild and wonderful as the places they are connecting.

One of the wildest tales from Down Under concerns a renegade wild donkey with a taste for tools. As an installer was busy working the donkey slyly grabbed one of the wrenches out of the truck. The installer, very aware that he needed his wrench and that a replacement was several days away, chased after the donkey, pried the wrench out of the animal’s mouth and then found himself chased by loud braying and sharp teeth back into his truck. Fortunately the rest of the install continued successfully without further shenanigans by Australia’s wild Asses. Installers have faced deadly snakes, leaping vicious spiders that can kill with one bite, turbulent seas and scorching red earth to bring communications to the wilds of Australia.

The Australian program is unique and a testament to “good” government infrastructure investment. As most of the world’s governments are tightening their belts and pulling back from cutting-edge infrastructure projects, Australia is doing exactly the opposite. The very latest solar and satellite technologies are being used to give even the smallest and most isolated indigenous communities access to modern communications. Activ8me is installing not only public solar powered satellite phones but also the new NBN Satellite Internet Services.

The combined impact of these new communications improves the lives and prosperity of the people in isolated communities. For example, Tanya Dart and her family in Muswellbrook NSW have found the new NBN Interim Satellite Service provides dependable communications where before the family had access to only sporadic coverage. Using the new satellite service Tanya has been able to continue her education online. Her husband Jon is able to connect with his customers much more efficiently and he is now able to spend more time with his family. Tanya’s two children use the new service to help them with their homework and access new books. The Dart family is only one of many that has benefited from the new satellite phone and Internet services.

The actual satellite installations depend on the help of workers from the Indigenous communities receiving the services. These symbiotic relationships provide short-term jobs for the local people and tools for finding employment once the phones are installed. Help from local people in turn makes the installations possible. For example, the installation on Kangaroo Island provided a complex set of physical circumstances. Boats, labor and help provided by locals make an impossible task a reality. Activ8me donated $5,000 dollars to a local community preschool in addition to paying the locals for their work to express their gratitude to the local people for their assistance.

Furthermore, new communications encourage business investment. In March 2012 the NBN Interim Satellite Service was used to improve communications at a remote Australian mining site. Barry Hinde, the site manager of Brular King Joint Venture who is overseeing the mining operations says, “Having a reliable Internet connection is really critical now that we’re transitioning from a construction phase into a production phase.” The NBN Interim Satellite Service connects the mine to their main office in Melbourne. It not only improves the efficiency of the company but it also provides an invaluable communications link to the outside world in the event of a mining emergency.The Australian government’s commitment to their people is encouraging commerce and changing lives despite weak world economic conditions. Similar programs could conceivably provide substantial gains in other countries as well.

Article by Lisa Pluth, PhD, a researcher for Selby Acoustics, Australia’s leading online supplier of quality home theatre equipment, HDMI cables and electronic accessories.

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