Digitally connecting King Island

Community stories eNews: 28 February 2024

The King Island Regional Development Organisation (KIRDO) is a not-for-profit, community-run business centre on King Island. Located in the middle of Bass Strait between the Tasmanian mainland and Victoria, King Island is a very isolated place and only obtained 4G service in 2022. The upgrade was a game changer for everyone on the island, including the numerous agricultural businesses that generate most of King Island’s economy.

Before the coming of 4G, many residents travelled to mainland Tasmania to conduct most of their online business – from business advice sessions and social service meetings to education. And the demand for online meetings has continued to increase since COVID.

Since 1992, KIRDO has been helping King Island locals and businesses with their day-to-day information and technology needs. The access to 4G on the Island gave KIRDO the chance to improve its service offering in a number of ways. But a lack of computers made it difficult to take full advantage of the new, more reliable connectivity.

KIRDO received a $5,423 Telstra Connected Communities Grant via FRRR, which enabled them to purchase two new laptops and expand their service offering to better support the Island’s residents. King Island has a significant senior population, many of whom have limited digital literacy. One laptop is used by KIRDO’s volunteers to conduct new digital literacy classes (mostly one-to-one sessions) to meet demand from residents to gain skills that will benefit them both practically and socially in digital settings.

The other laptop is used for online meetings and training sessions in the boardroom, which means KIRDO can cater for most kinds of local business and training needs. Many business, training and community services are now available to locals without having to leave the Island. For example, Remote Services Australia uses the fast connectivity to provide Centrelink, Medicare and other social services.

KIRDO houses the Visitor Information Centre and the King Island Chamber of Commerce and King Island Tourism use their meeting facilities. They also host meetings of community groups like Landcare, private organisations and the not-for-profit employment agency, West Northwest Working. The new technology and connectivity also make it easier for TasTAFE to deliver its chemical certificate licence course for the cattle farmers who make up about 80 percent of businesses on the island.

The popularity of KIRDO’s services means they’ll keep accepting bookings for the boardroom and organising workshops for the digital literacy program. They’ve recently partnered with Study-King Island, which plans to open an office in KIRDO’s building to cater for students who are enrolled in advance education like the University of Tasmania’s remote learning programs. It’s early days, but it’s hoped the arrangement will enable young people to stay on the Island, rather than having to move to Hobart or Launceston. It will mean many students can continue working on their family farms while studying related courses like Ag Science.

The Telstra Connected Communities Grant enabled KIRDO to take full advantage of the 4G connectivity. It’s also given the tourism economy a boost because visitors now have digital access to everything.