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The more socially inclusive Australia’s digital transformation is, the stronger our economy will be. As connectivity, access and inclusion improves, the ability to provide government services online and direct to people’s homes will increase. This will reduce the cost of services like education, healthcare and improve rural and remote access.

Providing universal broadband services

The National Broadband Network (NBN) is helping to bridge the digital divide, by providing regional Australians with the tools they need to grow and prosper in their local area.

By mid 2018, the rollout of the NBN in regional areas was approximately 86 per cent complete, with the remainder under construction or in planning.

The NBN will assist businesses in these areas to improve their productivity, reduce costs and increase access new markets. The NBN will enable more businesses to make the move out of the cities and into our rural towns and communities. Access to the network is expected to help create an additional 20,000 jobs in regional Australia by 2021.

The existing Sky Muster satellite service provides enough capacity for advanced applications such as distance education and e-health services.

The Government prioritised work with NBN Co to develop a special product using the Sky Muster satellite so that distance education students have additional data they need to get the most out of their studies. As of 4 July 2018, 743 students across regional Australia were benefiting from this product.

The NBN is enabling e-health to help regional Australians manage their health condition with the help of remote access to city specialists.

NBN Co has also developed a Public Interest Premise (PIP) policy which allows schools, emergency services, Indigenous organisations, Government facilities and health facilities in the Sky Muster footprint to access to additional data of up to 300 Gigabytes (GB) per month. In addition, individual buildings belonging to the same complex may be classed as separate premises, which allows additional installations.

These initiatives are part of the Government’s ongoing commitment to increase the opportunities for inclusion, which access to fast broadband can provide for regional and rural parts of Australia.

Telehealth boost for people living in rural and remote regions

The Government is providing $9.1 million over 4 years from 2017-18 into a telehealth initiative.

The initiative helps Australians who live in rural and regional Australia access psychologists and health professionals via video consultations. Health professionals will be able to connect sooner and more regularly with patients in need of services, narrowing the gap in health equity for people in rural and remote locations

Increasing accessibility

Developments in artificial intelligence, machine learning and cloud computing are rapidly improving voice recognition and translation technology. Over time, this will make digital content more accessible to people of all cultural and linguistic backgrounds.

Advances in assistive digital technologies will continue to improve the daily lives of people with disabilities. Technologies such as biometric access and voice recognition may make accessing online services and information far easier than traditional delivery and interaction methods.

Improving healthcare access

Digital healthcare models are improving accessibility, quality, safety and efficiency. By early 2019, every Australian will have a My Health Record (unless they choose not to). This will deliver significant improvements in both the quality and efficiency of healthcare, and puts patients at the centre of their healthcare.

Enhancing democratic freedoms

Freedom of expression is a fundamental part of a vibrant democracy and a culture of accountability. It underpins good governance and stronger institutions. The Internet provides an unparalleled opportunity for the exercise of the freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association, and the promotion and protection of human rights.