GrainGrowers is among the 17 leading rural organisations presenting an urgent case for equitable access to reliable, affordable mobile phone and internet services to federal politicians today in Canberra.
A lack of access and connectivity is threatening Australian grain farmers’ productivity growth and competitiveness with overseas grains businesses, argues national representative body, GrainGrowers.
GrainGrowers’ Chairman John Eastburn and General Manager of Policy and Innovation David McKeon are representing grain farmers as part of the Regional, Rural and Remote Communications Coalition.
The Coalition is meeting with Federal parliamentarians today and tomorrow to press for the end to the current inequality between cities and the bush caused by poor mobile phone network coverage and unreliable and limited internet connectivity.
“Grain farmers now have at their disposal a wealth of technology to make more informed farm decisions and to drive profitability,” said David McKeon.
“Digital technology represents the new frontier of productivity gains for grain farming businesses,” he said.
“Already, farm machinery systems can transmit real-time crop information and machinery performance data over the Internet to central off-farm or cloud sites.
“However, grain farmers’ use of this technology is curtailed by a lack of access to a reliable phone network and data service. Ultimately, substandard telecommunications services in the bush constrains our ability to remain global market leaders.
“Inequality of access to some of the most basic Government services that are going digital represents a real disenfranchisement of some members of the Australian community.”
Mr McKeon said GrainGrowers had helped fund a report by the Australian Farm Institute last year which predicted that an uptake of digital agriculture systems by grain farmers could deliver 10-15 per cent productivity gains for farm businesses.
“The availability of this technology to regional communities is essential to maintain equity between the bush and urban areas.
“Importantly, we need to improve access to broadband and mobile services to ensure businesses and rural communities can continue to stay at the top of their game.”
The Regional, Rural and Remote Communications Coalition is led by the National Farmers’ Federation and the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) and supported by organisations such as GrainGrowers with an interest in the future prosperity of regional, rural and remote Australia and the communities that underpin it.
The Coalition is calling for five initiatives to improve rural and regional communications:
- A universal service obligation that is technology neutral and provides access to both voice and data;
- Customer service guarantees and reliability measures to underpin the provision of voice and data services, to deliver more accountability from providers and nbn;
- Long term public funding for open access mobile network expansion in rural and regional Australia;
- Fair and equitable access to Sky Muster satellite for those with a genuine need for the service, and access which reflects the residential, educational and business needs of rural and regional Australia;
Funding to build digital literacy and provide problem-solving support for regional, rural and remote businesses and consumers.
At the coalface of the data drought
“Farmers must have access to internet and mobile phone connectivity that is comparable to our urban counterparts in terms of speed, volume and price — if they are to keep pace with the productivity gains of the past.”
Grain farmer Bordertown, South Australia
Michael Hunt of near Bordertown South Australia has been growing grain for more than 30 years. During the past two years his reliance on digital technologies has increased, including with a cloud-based financial management system and the use of digital crop management platform ProductionWise to manage his cropping operation.
“I believe the collection and application of ‘big ag data’ promises to be the next frontier for innovation — but this is totally dependent on adequate connectivity,” Michael said.
“However slow download and upload speeds make doing small associated tasks longer than they should be.”
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