Upon reflecting on the potential topics listed for further individual investigation for this task, the subject involving ‘Poverty’ caught my curiosity. Without the luxury of context or an indication as to where exactly I could take this broad concept, I had to lean upon my own personal concerns regarding the topic in relation to communication and media. In doing so, I realised that it is apparent that there is a “Digital Divide” in Australia. This means that poor social and economic conditions limit access to communication technologies, which is an issue because those that have the most to gain from the resources that technologies such as the internet, provide – are at a disadvantage because they do not have the ability to access the benefits of media and communications technology. (Thomas, Wilson and Park, 2018) Instead of a digital economy designed for everyone, we appear to have created a highly stratified Internet, where the distribution of resources and opportunities online reflects Australia’s larger social and economic inequalities. The number of people using the Internet is not growing and the basic parameters of digital inequality in Australia – age, geography, education and income – continue to define access to and use of online resources. (Thomas, Wilson and Park, 2018)
Within this group of disadvantaged people, there is a further minority of which I will attempt to take a closer glimpse at in the context of this task. Indigenous Australians in remote communities suffer the most at the hands of this ‘Digital Divide’. Less than 77% of individuals in these remote Indigenous communities have access to Information Communication Technologies. However, despite the acknowledgement of a definite digital divide in the Australian Indigenous context, it is suggested by Carlson that the rapid advances in mobile technologies and the online environment have quickly been adapted by Aboriginal Youth (Carlson, 2013) in order to maintain their cultures, communicate and archive knowledge, empower their communities and develop skills to generate income in order to exit the poverty cycle. (Singleton, Rola-Rubzen, Muir & McGregor, 2009) She claims that social media acts as a vehicle for self-representation and provides an environment where personal identity can be tested and accepted and where a connection between the individual identity and collective Indigenous identity can develop. (Carlson, 2013)
In taking in all of the information that I have accumulated in regards to the issue of Communication and Media use by people who are impoverished, I have formulated a research question that focuses on a specific problem affecting a specific demographic:
“Do people in remote Indigenous communities engage with social media in order to communicate their struggles with poverty and disadvantage?”
Communication technologies and social media can help Indigenous people in remote communities to mobilise resources, share information, and improve work related efficiency, improve educational outcomes, overcome remoteness and isolation, pursue recognition of rights to land and participation in negotiations with mining companies and government departments in order to negotiate and or reaffirm relationships that may be in tension with some of the longer standing traditional authority structures in their society. (Singleton, Rola-Rubzen, Muir & McGregor, 2009)
Building off of the claim that communication technologies provide the resources for disadvantaged people to potentially emancipate themselves from their position of detriment; it is discussed in “Youth Empowerment & Information Communication Technologies”, that media gives a voice to the voiceless. Having access to communication technologies aids in overcoming language and literacy barriers, facilitates intergenerational knowledge transfer, promotes empowerment and social participation which can lead to improvements in Indigenous health, education and economic development. Information Communication Technologies can also be a major tool for democratisation, advocacy and decentralisation for people living in remote Indigenous communities. (Singleton, Rola-Rubzen, Muir & McGregor, 2009).
Indigenous youth in rural and remote Australia utilise social media to air their thoughts and the cultural activities and concerns of their community. Social media as a ‘new frontier’ is where Aboriginal people are busy seeking new ways of representing and identifying themselves in a global amphitheatre. (Carlson, 2013) Empowerment is recognised as one of the three pillars of poverty reduction and this social political influence and ‘agency’ approach to empowerment suggests a shift of power to the powerless that allows them to bring their issues to the surface of the political, social and cultural agenda. (Singleton, Rola-Rubzen, Muir & McGregor, 2009) Aboriginal people are online and social media is a political site for Indigenous individuals to play out their struggles and identities. (Carlson, 2013) If the digital divide can be successfully combatted in the near future, potentially, Indigenous people from remote communities would benefit greatly as their ability to voice their struggles will be increased tenfold.
Carlson, B. (2013). The ‘new frontier’: Emergent Indigenous identities and social media. In M. Harris, M. Nakata & B. Carlson (Eds.), The Politics of Identity: Emerging Indigeneity (pp. 147-168). Sydney: University of Technology Sydney E-Press
Singleton, G., Rola-Rubzen, M., Muir, K., Muir, D. and McGregor, M. (2009). Youth empowerment and information and communication technologies: a case study of a remote Australian Aboriginal community. GeoJournal, 74(5), pp.403-413.
Thomas, J., Wilson, C. and Park, S. (2018). Australia’s digital divide is not going away. [online] The Conversation. Available at: http://theconversation.com/australias-digital-divide-is-not-going-away-91834 [Accessed 15 Mar. 2019].