A new research group is hoping to tackle communication challenges for northern Australia.

The expert consortium wants to pave the way for investment in digital inclusion policy, interventions, programs, and communications infrastructure across northern Australia.

The 12-month Northern Australian Communication Analysis Project includes research, business and industry partners like QUT, James Cook University (JCU), Charles Darwin University (CDU), the Centre for Appropriate Technology Ltd (CfAT) and Regional Development Australia Northern Territory (RDANT).

It has been formed to identify barriers and provide solutions to enhance telecommunications and internet connectivity, as well as digital inclusion more broadly, in the north.

“We know northern Australians, particularly those living in north-west and far-north Queensland, the Northern Territory and rural and remote areas of Western Australia, are missing out on the benefits of being connected to technology or lack the skills and means to access the sorts of technology many Australians living in cities, and some larger regional centres, take for granted,” said group chair Sheriden Morris.

“Given Australia’s digital economy is estimated to be worth $139 billion by 2020, digital inclusion is an essential component of the task of developing northern Australia.”

Researchers will spend the next year working with a broad range of industry and community stakeholders across northern Australia, including all levels of government, telcos, regional development associations, agricultural organisations and bodies, education service providers, health and human services organisations and Indigenous groups.

Feedback and data from these groups will help researchers devise a five-year road map for digital inclusion research, practice and policy development for northern Australia.

A final report is due mid-2020.