Improving internet and phone services in rural and remote areas would produce a thousand-fold return on investment, with latest research showing that better connectivity could increase national agricultural product by up to $20 billion.
Dalby grain and cotton grower Kim Bremner said massive technological advancements in agricultural techniques and equipment over the past decade had not been matched by improvements in connectivity, costing the country billions.
“Precision farming technology can make our land many times more productive while improving environmental outcomes, but we need internet in the bush to be as good as it is in the city,” Mr Bremner said.
“Modern farm machinery like irrigators, sprayers and harvesters have on-board technology that can customise the treatment of each individual square metre of paddock, maximising the productivity of our land while reducing water usage, use of farm chemicals, runoff and erosion.
“But the use of such NASA like technology requires internet services far beyond that available across most of Queensland.
“Surely such an investment in the economy, employment and sustainability of agriculture would pay dividends.”
Mr Bremner said the establishment of a national ‘tech hub’ would help producers select internet and tech services that would most effectively meet these needs.
“Currently, the dazzling array of service providers and their marketing presents a confusing landscape that makes it impossible for the average farmer to select the best package, even in areas where coverage is adequate,” he said.
“Both Labor and the Coalition have promised, if elected, to fund a ‘tech hub’ to provide independent information to help support people to build up the skills to solve their telecommunications issues.
“We are pleased that both sides of The House appreciate the critical need to close the digital skills gap between urban and rural Australians.
“It’s not about rural families being able to stream Game of Thrones or their Spotify favourites; this is about encouraging innovation in agriculture by providing industry-specific advice about the internet and digital applications that will drive productivity gains.
“People living and working in rural, regional and remote areas need fairer, more reliable and affordable phone and internet services for community safety, business development, children’s education and health services, as well as the knowledge and skills to be able to fully exploit them.
“The employment of technical advisers a will provide on-the-ground support to help them get connected and stay connected, using individually tailored technologies.
“It is vitally important that, as a nation, we address the need to upskill Australians living in regional, rural and remote communities, ensuring that the digital skills gap between urban and rural Australia is closed.”