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Thursday, 20 August 2009 08:57

Conroy offers $54m to fund regional and rural broadband projects

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Communications minister, senator Stephen Conroy, has called for proposals to receive funding under the $60 million ($53.6m net) Digital Regions Initiative set up to fund projects that will deliver high-quality digital applications for education, health and emergency services over the National Broadband Network.

His department has issued its Digital Regions Initiative final guidelines for funding applicants. Proposals require a collaborative approach from the private sector and government bodies and those seeking funding are required to match federal funding. Draft guidelines were released in June.
 
The Digital Regions Initiative was announced as part of the Government's initial response to the Glasson Regional Telecommunications Review. Further funding was announced in the 2009-10 Budget.

In its initial response to Glasson, released in March 2009 the government promised $46m for the Digital Regions Initiative to improve the delivery of education, health and emergency services in regional, rural and remote communities in partnership with state, territory and local governments. It said that projects would be selected through a competitive selection process and would be expected to offer sustainable solutions and longer term benefits for regional Australians.

Examples given included remote medical consultation, diagnosis and treatment to address regional skills shortages; digital resources and services such as teleconferencing to improve access to educational opportunities for regional, rural and remote students; and digital technologies to improve emergency and disaster response.

The Federal Budget increased the available funding from $46m to $60m over four years. However the draft guidelines revealed that $6.6m of this would be eaten up in the costs of running the programme.

Expressions of interest are now open and will close on 14 September 2009. Details at https://www.dbcde.gov.au/communications/digital_regions_initiative

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