Gaps in rural digital economy need closing

Australian farmers are among some of the most innovative and efficient in the world, but it is only by closing the gap between the promise and reality in rural digital economy that they can maximise opportunities in the digital economy, NSW Farmers’ President Fiona Simson said today.

Ms Simson, who was delivering a key note address at the Digital Rural Futures Conference in Armidale said that the farm sector was nowhere near realising the potential of current, let alone future technologies.

"There's no magic bullet but broadband is definitely a key enabling technology because it can deliver comparable internet speeds to all customers in the economy regardless of delivery method and location,” she said.

However it is not the whole answer. Farmers, like other customers also rely heavily on mobile telecommunications for data and voice communications.

"But despite heavy reliance and popularity of mobile telecommunications, the reality is mobile technology is not yet even treated as an essential service in rural Australia even though it absolutely is.

“In a 2011 NSW Farmers Survey, close to 70 percent of respondents indicated that their mobile is inadequate for email or internet use on their farm.
 
“The elephant in the room is the abject failure to address this problem and governments must address it as a matter of urgency.

“The rural sector needs consistency of access and a guaranteed wholesale price for broadband," she said

Ms Simson said her take home message is the need for focus, not just on the primary technologies – the cool tools - but on the business models and secondary technology needed for collaborative digital solutions. 
 
“Working simultaneously across all the areas we need to establish the business case and cultural conditions needed for rural stakeholders to engage with the digital economy.
 
“Part of that is developing and demonstrating solutions. The clever stuff and complexity needs to be in the background – end users need simple interfaces and complete solutions that precisely support their needs,” she concluded.

Contact: Veneta Chapple

Phone: 1300 794 000

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