An evaluation of the broadband ecosystem in Western Downs region (WDR)

PhD Thesis


Tiwari, Sanjib. 2017. An evaluation of the broadband ecosystem in Western Downs region (WDR). PhD Thesis Doctor of Philosophy. University of Southern Queensland. https://doi.org/10.26192/5c0610d68a82d
Title

An evaluation of the broadband ecosystem in Western Downs region (WDR)

TypePhD Thesis
Authors
AuthorTiwari, Sanjib
SupervisorLane, Michael
Alam, Khorshed
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
Qualification NameDoctor of Philosophy
Number of Pages347
Year2017
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.26192/5c0610d68a82d
Abstract

There is a large body of research on broadband adoption and use at the macro and national level, however, there is limited research on rural and remote areas. This research provides an in-depth understanding of the broadband ecosystem in terms of supply (broadband infrastructure), and household demand (adoption and use) of broadband Internet and its impact (building and maintaining social capital) in the Western Downs Region (WDR) of Queensland, Australia.

Using the broadband ecosystem as an overarching framework, three phases and a mixed methods approach was used to conduct an in-depth explanatory case study of the WDR. The first research phase collected publicly available archival (primarily quantitative) data and field data from testing of mobile networks to determine and evaluate the status (supply) of broadband infrastructure in the WDR (RQ1). The second research phase collected primarily qualitative information using semi-structured interviews to address research questions (RQ2 and RQ3). The third phase, using a survey, collected quantitative data to validate and test broadband adoption, use and impact components of the broadband ecosystem (RQ2 and RQ3, 13 hypotheses). Thereby, the second and third research phase determined the extent of adoption and use of broadband Internet services by households and its impact in helping to build and maintain social capital in rural communities in the WDR.

The research findings show that there are limitations in broadband infrastructure in remote and outer regional locations. In these locations, most households rely on mobile broadband services which were clearly demonstrated to be patchy at best in most areas of the WDR. To a lesser extent in remote and outer regional locations affordability of mobile broadband is also an issue for households given the lower socio-economic status of much of rural Australia including the WDR. Furthermore, data quotas are much more expensive for mobile broadband and satellite broadband in comparison to wired broadband. Hence, there would also appear to be a digital divide, particularly between remote and outer regional locations of the WDR and inner regional and urban locations in Australia. The researcher also demonstrated that this reflects a similar situation in many other remote and outer regional locations in Australia. The findings indicate that most households have moved beyond the adoption phase to the use phase and indicate that hedonic outcomes, self-efficacy and number of years of Internet use are significant determinants of actual use of broadband. Conversely, perceived cost, prior knowledge and experience factors were found to be significant determinants of intention to adopt and use broadband services. However, utilitarian outcomes and purchase complexity had no significant impact on intention to adopt and use. The study also found that broadband Internet use has significant impact for rural communities in the WDR by helping to build and maintain social capital (bonding and bridging).

This research has made several important contributions to knowledge, theory and practice. Firstly, this research adapted the Broadband Ecosystem framework to incorporate system quality and impact components of information systems success theory, Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) and Model of Adoption of Technology in Household (MATH) technology adoption theories and two dimensions of social capital theory (bridging and bonding theory) which complement the overarching economic theory of supply and demand in this theoretical and conceptual model. Secondly, this research addressed an important gap in information systems research -the lack of empirical research on digital infrastructure. In this study, broadband infrastructure was included in a comprehensive evaluation of the broadband ecosystem in a rural setting, the WDR. Thirdly, by focusing on two units of analysis broadband infrastructure in a rural region and household adoption, and use and impact of broadband this study addresses important research problems from a societal and government policy perspectives. Fourthly, this research examined and validated the broadband ecosystem framework using mixed methods approach in a rural context.

Finally, this research has made significant practical contributions which can inform government policy by identifying that availability, reliability and affordability shortcomings of broadband infrastructure in outer regional and remote regions is impacting household adoption, use and benefits of broadband services in rural Australia. Hence, future government policy needs to ensure that access to reliable and high speed broadband services is part of its Universal Service Obligation so that the current shortcomings in broadband infrastructure in rural Australia are prioritised and addressed. This study confirms that improved access and more effective use of broadband could help to address the digital divide that currently exists between rural and urban Australia and also help to build and maintain social capital in rural communities.

Keywordsbroadband; supply; demand; rural areas; remote areas; regional Queensland; Western Downs region
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020380118. Urban and regional economics
400699. Communications engineering not elsewhere classified
Byline AffiliationsSchool of Management and Enterprise
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