After three long years, AgForce’s calls for a digital tech hub for regional Queensland communities have been answered with the announcement today by Federal Minister for Regional Services and Deputy Leader Senator Bridget McKenzie of $60 million towards digital literacy.
A digital tech hub will provide those in rural and regional areas with vital independent information about the choices of digital technologies and applications. Currently, there is confusion and concern among regional consumers about the most appropriate solutions to meet their needs and keep their services operating. The hub will alleviate this.
AgForce General President Georgie Somerset applauded this commitment.
“AgForce looks forward to participating to ensure the guidelines of the hub reflect what farmers and their families have been seeking in order to ensure their digital needs are met,” Mrs Somerset said.
“The hub needs to be developed and delivered by industry to make sure it maintains the quality established by Better Internet for Rural, Regional and Remote Australia (BIRRR).”
BIRRR’s Kristy Sparrow, who has volunteered many hours to advocate for improved digital communication for the bush, said she was excited about the hub.
“BIRRR has been calling for this for a long-time, so I’d like to thank the Regional Telecommunications Independent Review Committee for their recommendations, and Senator McKenzie for listening,” she said.
“The tech hub is essential. As a volunteer group we cannot be expected to provide support for those living in rural, regional and remote areas right around Australia.”
The hub was part of a $220 million commitment by the Federal Government to regional communications. $160 million of this package is for round 4 of the Mobile Black Spot Program with commitment to fund rounds 5 and 6 if re-elected.
The Mobile Black Spot Program brings together co-contributions from State and Local Governments and mobile network operators to invest in telecommunication’s infrastructure in regional, rural and remote Australia.
Round 4 of the program, announced this week, includes 26 new base stations for regional Queensland including Jimbour near Dalby and Glenmorgan in the middle of the Maranoa, which, Mrs Somerset said, “will help keep our farmers safe and connected in the paddock.”
“Investing in improved mobile phone coverage is critical to help Queensland farmers adopt new farming technologies that will help our industry to continue to produce green, clean and ethical food and fibre,” she said.
“Access to affordable, reliable phone and internet services is one of the biggest issues for those living, working and travelling in the bush.”
It is expected that the mobile coverage base stations announced in Round 4 will be operational by the second half of 2019.
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