Priest wants "unprecedented" non-profit broadband plan

Jesuit Fr Michael Kelly has called for a non-profit broadband network to help small and poorly funded organisations, especially those in the country, overcome the "digital divide".

Writing in the Sunday Age, Fr Kelly was responding to the Government's announcement of a $1 billion Connect Australia package that aims to bring broadband services to the bush.

Fr Kelly says that high-speed broadband access and technology will soon become a matter of life and death for church and non-profit groups, which represent up to 10 per cent of Australia's gross domestic product.

"It is no secret that there is a crisis looming in community services, with some charities forced to close or drastically cut services that have been stretched beyond breaking point," he said.

"Despite increased government and community reliance on the sector, many non-profit organisations cannot raise sufficient funds to meet increasing demand for their services."

The non-profit sector therefore "needs to embrace the technology revolution for its own survival and to drive down its costs," he says.

However, according to Fr Kelly, "quite the opposite is occurring, with an increasing 'digital divide' emerging".

He says many small organisations "are not even on the starting blocks in the race to harness broadband access" and information technology tools.

In a plea for "unprecedented" co-ordination and collaboration between governments, industry and the non-profit sector, Fr Kelly points to the creation of a non-profit broadband network as a key starting point.

"For social services, this network access will be critical to fulfilling untold potential. This includes dramatically lifting the quality, reach and impact of their services. It also means reduced costs and improved efficiency."

If non-profits collaborate to provide network access, technology and training at an affordable price, "our community sector will harness the potential of the online world", Fr Kelly concludes.

According to Fr Kelly, there are also commercial benefits in an "e-enabled" non-profit sector.

"When aggregated, the sector is a blue-chip customer of substantial size and spending power," he said.

"By working together, the sector can go to service providers and the myriad software, hardware, content and integration specialists for clever solutions and applications at a much lower per-unit cost."

Time to bridge the great digital divide (The Age, 17/12/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Connect Australia

Non-profits need leading technology, Jesuit media guru says (CathNews, 10/11/06)

18 Dec 2006