GENDERED LIVED EXPERIENCE OF DIGITAL INCLUSION IN RURAL AUSTRALIA
Keywords:digital inclusion, rural, gender, women, connectivity
North West Queensland (NWQ) is one of Australia’s least digitally included regions (Thomas et. al. 2018). This research investigated the lived experience of digital inclusion – comprised of internet access, affordability and digital ability – in NWQ’s rural farming households. A qualitative approach was employed to illuminate factors that underlie particularly low levels of digital inclusion among ‘farmers and farm managers’. By talking to cattle farmers at rural events and remote property visits in the Northern Gulf region, the researcher explored the specific opportunities for, and barriers to, getting connected and using digital technologies in life and business for both men and women. The findings revealed a paradox in women’s lived experience of digital inclusion. While internet access is often limited and sometimes out of their control, rural women are thrust into undertaking computer-based tasks and managing data scarcity, which are often seen as ‘women’s work’. Ironically, many of these women develop a thirst for further digital skills and connections, which can be difficult to obtain in the absence of digital ability programs in rural areas.