Participation in the digital world is not a luxury, it is an integral part of daily life. As the disconnect between city and country grows, improved telecommunications are needed to bridge the divide. About one-third of the population live in regional, rural, and remote areas. These seven million Australians do not enjoy the same high standard of health services, educational facilities or transport infrastructure as those living in our cities; but with the technology available today, the telecommunications issue should be resolved.
Agriculture is a tech-savvy sector comprised of natural innovators who generally embrace technology and innovation, but farm businesses in many parts of the country are frequently hindered by inadequacies in service and infrastructure. Unreliable and unaffordable communications remain a serious source of inequality for regional, rural and remote Australians with only 68 per cent of households having an internet connection. Digital inclusion in the regions lags far behind the major cities and it is more critical than ever to get it right out in the regions to increase on-farm productivity and efficiency.
There are great opportunities to maximise the economic benefits for regional communities and the economy through the use of digital technologies. The Australian Farm Institute estimates that an extra $20 billion could be added to agriculture's bottom line by 2050 with the adoption of digital technology alone. If regional Australia is to be the prosperous and innovative economic powerhouse that it can be, more infrastructure investment is needed.
The incoming federal government can begin by implementing all 10 recommendations from the 2018 Regional Telecommunications Review to safeguard and grow all communities and industries in regional, rural and remote Australia. Providing local resources and expertise would allow regions to build on their unique strengths and take advantage of the educational and commercial opportunities presented by greater connectivity. Governments have an obligation to ensure people living in country areas are equally connected to the modern economy and are able to take advantage of the digital innovations and opportunities it enables.