ASCCA and Indian Ocean Group Training Association

A cheerful group selfie at a 'Be Connected' session on Christmas Island. The photo features a diverse group of seniors seated around a long table, with a facilitator at the forefront smiling widely at the camera. The participants are engaging with each other and the session, with informational leaflets and notes scattered on the table. The room is bright and functional with emergency signage and equipment visible, emphasizing the community and safety aspect of the event.

Empowering Digital Literacy in the Indian Ocean Territories:

As many of our members know, ASCCA has been a Be Connected Network Partner from the very first steps towards the national network it is today, in late 2017.  Since then we believe we have been an integral cog in the wheel for this nationwide initiative to empower ‘older Australians’ when it comes to technology. Since then, we have built on both Nan and Jenny’s impressive networks, spanning the length and breadth of the country to partner with other peak bodies and organisations who engage seniors in some way, shape or form, but not necessarily having the resources within their organisations to focus on digital literacy for their older volunteers, staff or community members.

Through these partnerships, and thanks to Be Connected funding, we have been able to build on ASCCA’s reputation and focus to empower seniors through technology.

As a result of a previous Capacity Building rounds (through Linkwest in 2020) and a professional relationship between Natika, Tess and Kelly (from Indian Ocean Group Training and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands CRC respectively), Natika was asked to head out to Christmas and Cocos to help host IOGTA’s delayed Get Online Week activity and provide some follow up support for their Digital mentors in the process.

A friendly selfie featuring Natika in the foreground wearing a white polo with the ASCCA logo and Tess beside her. They are smiling in a well-lit room with a 'Be Connected' website page displayed on a screen in the background, indicating an educational setting. A wall clock reads just after ten, suggesting the photo was taken in the morning during a session. The image conveys a sense of partnership and community engagement.

Whilst we are providing follow up support for the mentors and happy to support them, its generally via video after either face to face or video linked Digital Mentor training. Our budget simply couldn’t stretch to a trip to these communities this round, they are tiny specks some 2,500kms, as the crow flies, from Perth, with limited flights (Tuesdays and Fridays only), closer to Indonesia and Sri Lanka than they are to mainland Australia. These are two of the most remote external Australian Territories and have populations of approximately 600 (Cocos) and 1500 (Christmas) people, most of whom have English as a second language.

Whilst both islands do have access to the internet, there are differing methods and the mobile services are different to what we have in most of our mainland communities, even some of our remote communities have better access than Cocos and Christmas Islands. There is no Telstra, Optus or Vodafone service at Cocos at all, however they do have a small local 4G provider who is providing mobile data services on island, Christmas does have Telstra service, but it’s still only a 2G service, phone and SMS but no data available through phones.

Fortunately there’s a local fixed wireless provider (Ci-Fi) providing portable hotspots to the community there for phone data access. Both communities have access to NBN Skymuster satellite services (but both communities are in the tropics, which means clouds and satellites) and now Starlink. As the connections become more readily available, the need to provide more capacity and capability within these communities is becoming more pressing.

An engaging photo of digital mentor training at Cocos with Siti and Hafshah. Both women, wearing hijabs, are focused on learning materials in front of them. One is pondering content on a smartphone, while the other is reviewing printed handouts. The room has a professional setting with a clear emergency exit, reinforcing the importance of safety in community spaces. The atmosphere is studious and concentrated, highlighting the dedication to digital literacy.

With the IOGTA funding Natika’s travel, Natika provided some business workshops to make use of the extra days out of her own office. The two seniors sessions focussed on scams and phishing attempts and then moved onto share some smart home devices, the Google Nest on loan from another Network Partner, the Kununurra Library, and a smart globe and switch from Natika’s own collection, to empower and support digital mentors on Cocos and Christmas Islands, fostering a safer and more connected community.

Partnering with the Indian Ocean Group Training Association (IOGTA), Natika’s visit marked a significant step forward in our ongoing efforts to enhance digital skills and awareness within these communities. On Cocos Island, she worked closely with mentors from the Community Resource Centre and Indian Ocean Group Training, sharing her expertise and insights to enrich their capabilities in guiding others on their digital journeys.

The interactive sessions hosted by Natika on both Home Island and Christmas Island were not just about learning; they were about creating a shared space for dialogue and discovery. Focusing on the Be Connected resources, these workshops provided the mentors with valuable tools and strategies to assist seniors in navigating the digital world with confidence.

But the training went beyond just technical skills. Recognising the increasing threats posed by digital scams and phishing attempts, Natika led discussions on online safety, equipping the community with the knowledge to identify and avoid such malicious activities. Whether it’s a suspicious SMS or a deceptive email, the mentors are now better prepared to guide seniors in protecting their personal information and digital presence.

As we continue to adapt to the evolving digital landscape, initiatives like Natika’s visit are vital in ensuring that our communities remain informed, safe, and connected. Her passion and commitment to digital literacy resonate deeply within the islands, leaving a lasting impact on the mentors and the seniors they support.

We are excited to share some photographs from Natika’s visit, which beautifully capture the essence of this community-driven initiative. Stay tuned for our upcoming social media posts on Facebook and LinkedIn, where we’ll dive deeper into these engaging sessions and the positive change they’re bringing to the Indian Ocean Territories.

We showed the seniors and their support workers some of the smart home technology, from smart globes, to smart switches that turn on many of the less smart devices in our homes such as lamps and TVs and air conditioning units, we also looked at wearables that may, when the Telstra tower on Christmas is upgraded, be a good option to help seniors maintain their independence.  All in all, the two sessions with seniors and the extra support for their digital mentors and four new mentors on Cocos made the trip a great success!