The State Government is evaluating the trial of its innovative Westlink video communication network with a view to making it an ongoing service next year.
Minister for Services Tom Stephens said today Westlink had been received enthusiastically and had created a lot of interest.
Westlink uses spare satellite capacity and equipment provided by Optus to broadcast education and training programs, professional development courses and seminars and community information programs to remote and rural areas.
Mr Stephens said extending Westlink was in line with the Government's plans for regional development outlined in the document 'The Regional Advantage', released by Premier Carmen Lawrence last week.
The trial had demonstrated that it was possible to deliver an enhanced range of services to remote and isolated communities.
A total of 30 satellite receivers had been installed in towns of various sizes. In addition about 2,000 privately-owned satellite dishes, including those in remote Aboriginal communities, had been able to receive Westlink programs.
"Westlink offers great scope to meet the needs of people in remote and rural areas," Mr Stephens said.
"For example, it provides better access to TAFE, tertiary and school-based courses by allowing them to be delivered via satellite to learning centres or home-based students.
"It also provides training courses for public sector employees like health workers, police, teachers and local government workers in regional and remote centres, as well as general and special interest information programs.
"By the end of December about 500 hours of programs will have been broadcast."
Mr Stephens said the programs were produced by Edith Cowan, Curtin and Murdoch universities and the TAFE External Studies College.
Programs had also been originated in regional centres with videoconferencing production facilities, such as Kalgoorlie School of Mines and Albany TAFE College.
The effectiveness of Westlink would be evaluated by its contribution to the quality of life in isolated areas, cost-effectiveness, potential for export of education and training courses and the extent to which it improved Government communications.
Mr Stephens said the Government would consider the evaluation early in the new year, along with funding options to extend the service.
The current free trial would continue until January.