Feds promise $60m in rural funding

$60m to go to regional and rural IT services

The federal government will undertake a competitive selection process for the provision of digital education, health and emergency services in region and rural Australia, starting immediately.

The competitive process is part of the Digital Regions Initiative, announced by the federal government on the 5th of March, 2009 as part of the government’s response to the Regional Telecommunications Review. Further funding, which took the Digital Regions Initiative to $60 million, was announced in the May budget.

According to Stephen Conroy, the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, the Digital Regions Initiative is an extension of the $43bn National Broadband Network. The Digital Regions Initiative will drive important developments to enable the productive benefits on offer.

“Through the Digital Regions Initiative, the Rudd Government will form partnerships with state, territory and local governments to drive digital development in the key service areas of education, health and emergency services.”

“These guidelines will shape the way we deliver projects supporting digital education, health and emergency services under the Digital Regions Initiative. I look forward to receiving views on the operation of this program,” Conroy said. According to Conroy, examples of programs enabled by the Digital Regions Initiative includes:

• remote medical consultation, diagnosis and treatment to address regional skills shortages and enhance patient care; • digital resources and services such as teleconferencing to improve access to educational opportunities for regional, rural and remote students and teachers, and • digital technologies to improve emergency and disaster response.

The first Digital Regions Initiative competitive selection round will commence in the second half of 2009.

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