People in rural and remote areas in Australia may soon be able to enjoy a benefit that many people in cities take for granted -- the ability to work from home.
A national project to stimulate "teleworking" throughout rural and remote areas here was announced yesterday by the Acting Minister for Communications, the Information Economy and the Arts, Warwick Smith.
"The TeleTask teleworking project will receive more than half a million dollars to provide the opportunity for people disadvantaged by distance to gain employment, working from their home-based computers," Smith said. "Hundreds of workers will have the opportunity to do a broad range of work, such as data processing, overflow secretarial services, helpdesks, telephone surveys and Web page design -- potentially amounting to millions of dollars," he added.
"Individuals and telecentres nationally will have the opportunity to subscribe and participate in this project," Smith added.
The independent Networking the Nation board approved $580,000 (US$354,000) over three years to the non-profit TeleTask to manage this project.
"Business will be generated through an intensive marketing campaign, building on the successes in recent years of telecentres such as that in Walcha in northern New South Wales," the acting minister said.
Andrew Hunter, the principal director of TeleTask, said there were many people in remote areas able to work via computers.
"We know there is a huge resource out there and we want to utilise it," he said. "We will assess people and make sure they can do the jobs they say they can. If necessary we will provide some training."
Hunter said TeleTask would act as a broker and would charge a percentage fee for its services. "But we are non-profit so the fee will be to cover the running costs of the company," he said. "We aim to be a fully viable, self-funded company within three years."
Acting Minister Smith said participants would develop their credentials through the project, while also accessing the wide range of online training resources available to them.
"Much of the actual work will be done in the country, for businesses in the cities. The project is designed to generate jobs in rural Australia, helping to reverse the drift from the country to the city and significantly enhancing the future of rural residents and their communities," Smith said.