Better connectivity closes digital divide
Fast, reliable and secure internet connectivity was delivered as part of a multi-million dollar infrastructure upgrade of rural and remote schools which has helped close the digital divide with their metro counterparts.
The initiative 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 included application of the Internet@Edge solution (content filtering and network security), improved school network connectivity (Wi-Fi), and major infrastructure upgrades from Telstra.
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.
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- More than 1,000 schools received internet upgrades ensuring the targeted connectivity speed of 5 Mbps per student to more than 210,000 students across the state.
- The program delivered 100% of its original commitment for Wi-Fi upgrades.
- It was part of a $328 million partnership between the NSW Government and Telstra to upgrade connectivity to all mainland NSW schools.
- A total of 57 schools were added to the program and received connectivity upgrades throughout 2023.
Quality connection for all students
The upgrades provided students access to strong, reliable internet connection especially those in rural and remote schools. It ensured the opportunities afforded by quality connectivity were 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 provided 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 was also a key deliverable of the program.
While the department is enhancing internet access across NSW, this had a significant impact in reducing the digital divide between rural and remote schools and their metro counterparts.
The upgrade rollout 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.
For more information, go to our Projects and initiatives section.