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Using technology in rural practice: Local area coordination in rural Australia
journal contributionposted on 06.12.2017, 00:00 by LI Chenoweth, DAE Stehlik
The use of information technology in human service practice in rural and remote areas has been increasingly promoted in Australia over the past 5 years. Federally funded initiatives such as Networking the Nation have sought to provide cheaper and efficient Internet and email access for people living in rural and remote areas of the continent. The use of such technologies in the delivery of human services has been somewhat ambivalent - both eagerly embraced and viewed with scepticism (Cheers, 1996; Martinez-Brawley, 2000). One Queensland initiative which has embraced the possibilities of technologies in providing services to people with disabilities and their families in remote areas is Local Area Coordination (LAC). Individual Local Area Coordinators, based in 1 remote and 5 rural centres, use a range of information technologies in their daily work. This includes providing support and advocacy to people with disabilities and their families as well as community work to increase community inclusion. This paper draws upon the findings of a research study that evaluated the LAC pilot project. The study spent time with practitioners and discussed with them their experiences in the use of such technology for 18 months. This paper examines the dilemmas raised by the increased use of information technologies - dilemmas such as intrusiveness and confidentiality, reliability, equity of access, and training. The implications for rural and remote human services are discussed.