DISCUSSIONS about rural telecommunications are full of static, and not just because of a degrading copper phone line.
Every single consumer has an opinion on internet connectivity and communications, the experts often have a conflict of interest and it is a landscape that requires an upgrade in technical lingo proficiency on a regular basis.
Farmer and regional business owner, Robbie Sefton has been instrumental in cutting through this noise, as an independent committee member for the federal government’s 2018 Regional Telecommunications Review.
Participation in the digital world is no longer a luxury, it is an integral part of our daily life
Recently submitted to the government, the review is held every three years and examines regional telecommunication issues, including the level of access to services in regional, rural and remote parts of Australia, to provide a basis for government policy.
Ms Sefton said effective connectivity was essential for modern farming businesses.
“Farmers are trying to increase farm productivity, the conversation is moving to how technology can assist them to be more efficient and effective in their farming businesses, whether that is cropping, horticulture or livestock,” she said.
“Connectivity is important both operationally in the paddock and in the office, managing book keeping and compliance across the business.
“So much of a farming business is run by computer, we need an efficient and effective, accessible internet connection, we also ideally need a good mobile phone connection on farm.”
Ms Sefton said connectivity outcomes for rural communities was a driver for her involvement with the review.
We need an efficient and effective, accessible internet connection
“I see myself as someone who is a champion for having a dynamic, prosperous rural and regional Australia,” she said.
“If we do not address the issues that we have around telecommunications, if we do not keep on top of the accessibility, speed and geographical reach, then we will become a second class citizens in the bush.
“The future for rural, regional and remote Australia is about being able to access reliable and effective internet access and mobile phones.
“Participation in the digital world is no longer a luxury, it is an integral part of our daily life.”
Ms Sefton said while not considered as essential as education and business internet use, internet access for entertainment was also important.
“We run three farms and have been feeding stock since February, but have been dry since October 2017. What has come home to roost through the drought, is the importance of downtime and having a bit of a break, coming home and being to watch a show or a movie on Netflix every now and then is a chance to unwind,” she said.
Ms Sefton said a clear message she took home from submissions made to the review committee was the lack of digital literacy from the everyday consumer.
“There is a crisis of confidence when it comes to using and understanding digital technology,” she said.
“More needs to be done to help people engage and participate in the digital world.
“There are people who want, need or have to be involved, but they don’t know where to start, they don’t know who to see to get help.”
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