I spend a lot of my time on the internet. Much of my work revolves around pages such as Twitter or Facebook where I try to share stories for farmers & consumers, along with catching up with friends. Simple things like researching places to visit for a tour group that I organised for work. Paying bills and keeping bookwork up to date. Keeping documents in the one location so that I can access or share them whenever I need to.
Most people in suburban areas would find doing these actions an easy, hassle-free task. Watching the latest episode of your favourite sitcom on Netflix, no worries right! Live stream iTunes radio all day while you work, awesome, bring it on!
However, for many in rural & regional Australia it is a real challenge. One that holds them back from reaching their full potential in both business & in their personal lives. It is not an issue just in Australia either. Many of my rural counterparts in the US face the same battles and challenges in their daily lives.
It is not only the lack of reliable internet available, it is also the amount (or lack of) of data available to rural customers that is the issue. 25GB seems like a lot of data until you need to download programs required to run your business, upload 50 documents to the cloud so that they can be accessed by others in your team, regularly post updates to social media or pay your bills. I can’t even imagine doing all this and trying to educate your children via School of the Air or distance education.
Our whole lives are based around the internet these days, and for good reason. It has allowed us opportunities to build stronger businesses, share our stories & keep in contact with our loved ones.
However, the internet is critical for the future of agriculture as it is where the next round of farm productivity gains are to be made.
Over the past 10, 25, 50 & even 100 years we have seen huge gains in yields in both crop & livestock industries thanks to better breeding, greater understanding of soils, better agronomy. Whilst gains will still be made in these areas, the digital era will allow fine tuning of all of these areas. Decisions will be made on very specific, location based information & with very little effort on behalf of the farmer.
Whilst our urban counterparts are enjoying NBN, cable or ADSL2, in rural areas we have a limited selection of mobile broadband or satellite connections, all of which are way oversubscribed leading to slow, unreliable connections that chew through data due to the constant reloading of pages or downloads.
How can we get past these troubles? How do we get decision makers to get real about making real efforts to increase services? It is something that has been weighing on my mind of late, here are some of my suggestions:
1. Encourage Start-ups in the internet access space