Virtual Realities: How Remote Dwelling Populations Become More Remote Over Time despite Technological Improvements
For those who have access to them, technologies of various sorts play a key role in maintaining connections between small and geographically dispersed settlements and to the wider World. For technologies to work in remote areas, there must be a framework of adaptability which ensures that users can adapt their practices to suit the new technology, technologies can be customised for local conditions, and an institutional infrastructure (including a regulatory environment) allows these adaptations to occur. In recent times, remote Australia’s “power to persuade” government to consider its needs when designing regulatory environments has diminished as a result of the changing nature of remote economies. This paper uses two case examples—that of air transport technology and that of communications technology—to demonstrate how a poor regulatory environment in effect increases the isolation of remote settlements. In the case of air transport, over regulation has made the cost of adoption and access too high for many remote dwellers. In the case of communications technology, de-regulation has made it difficult for remote dwellers to demand equity of access to infrastructure. We conclude by suggesting that regulatory systems need to be more aware of the unique conditions facing remote populations. Research into the persistently low rates of technology adoption in remote areas needs to be more cognizant of the regulatory adaptability aspect.
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