Better connectivity closes digital divide

Fast, reliable and secure internet connectivity has been delivered as part of a multi-million dollar infrastructure upgrade of rural and remote schools which is helping close the digital divide with their metro counterparts.

The initiative has delivered one of the major targets of the Rural Access Gap program – network connectivity of 5 Mbps per student in Rural Access Gap schools.

It includes application of the Internet@Edge solution (content filtering and network security), improved school network connectivity (Wi-Fi), and major infrastructure upgrades from Telstra.

Deputy Premier Paul Toole and Minister for Education Sarah Mitchell were at Wattle Flat Public School in the state’s Central West recently to mark the final 12 public schools in NSW to now be connected to fibre internet.

“The NSW Government is committed to offering the best opportunities to all NSW students no matter where they live – and that means having access to fast, reliable internet,” Toole said.

Greater connectivity has made daily tasks easier for staff at Wattle Flat Public School.

We're at Wattle Flat Public School, which is 38 kilometres from Bathurst.

It is a small rural school. We have currently 24 students.

I'm a teaching principal and it's just an amazing place to be.

We had virtually no internet, a very antiquated satellite system which until this year has been our main source of internet and it has been very unreliable, very problematic ... nothing works here.

From the SAM's point of view, SAP became some days we couldn't use it and if you didn't do your finance before 10 o'clock forget about doing it for the rest of the day.

When I arrived here the internet was extremely poor. Just trying to get logged into the computer was an issue.

Work was building up, I couldn't get it to do anything because it just wasn't happening.

I was very determined to get it fixed, get it in place before I retired and I always said I would never retire until the internet was great at Wattle Flat. And now it's great at Wattle Flat and I'm still not retiring!

It's made a huge difference to my days and getting work done is just flying through the work. It's just absolutely amazing. I'm so grateful that it's been fixed.

[End of transcript.]

Snapshot

  • Infrastructure upgrades have been completed by Telstra at 998 Rural Access Gap schools. Program is complete.

  • The Internet@Edge solution has been applied to 990 Rural Access Gap schools. Program is complete.

  • Internet speeds will increase more than tenfold.

  • It is part of a $328 million partnership between the NSW Government and Telstra to upgrade connectivity to all mainland NSW schools.

Quality connection for all students

The upgrades are providing students access to strong, reliable internet connection especially those in rural and remote schools. It ensures the opportunities afforded by quality connectivity are available to all students regardless of location.

As a result of work done, some of the state's most remote schools no longer need to rely on constrained satellite internet.

Reliable connections and larger bandwidths are providing a platform for more engaged personalised learning for students, and allow easier lesson planning, collaboration, video conferencing, and professional development for teachers.

The target of 5 Mbps per student is also a key deliverable of the program.

While the department is enhancing internet access across NSW, this will have a significant impact in reducing the digital divide between rural and remote schools and their metro counterparts.

The upgrade rollout has had its challenges and there was no one-size-fits-all solution.

A small number of schools categorised as ‘very remote’ were upgraded using alternative technology including complex radio solutions coupled with buried and overhead optic fibre connections.

The first of those ‘remote’ upgrades was completed in March 2021 at Booligal Public School north of Hay in the state’s west delivering higher speeds to students and teachers.

All ‘very remote’ schools were expected to be upgraded and enabled with Internet@Edge.

Learn more

For more information, email schoolsdigitalstrategy@det.nsw.edu.au.

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