By Robbie Sefton
It’s been getting some bad press, but I love this digital age we have arrived at in the 21st Century.
In common with 95% of Australia’s adult population, I carry with me a small slab of glass and metal encasing far more computing power than was used to put people on the moon. There is a full office in this little device: it allows me to communicate, read documents and respond to them, make purchases and answer questions from a global cache of answers.
It allows me to go home to the farm at night without ever losing touch with my business, and work from the farm if I choose — which I seldom do, because my business inevitably loses out to the needs of the farm business or other more important things, like border collie puppies.
I am one of millions who has been enabled by mobile communications, and so I am delighted to have been chosen to sit on the committee of Australia’s third Regional Telecommunications Review.
The review looks two ways. It asks who is not being enabled by digital communication, and why; and how those who are being enabled can enhance the economic benefits promised by the technologies.
The bush is intimately familiar with the injustices of internet coverage. To cut our governments some slack — it should be acknowledged that rural populations in all countries larger than a footy field grapple with similar issues of communications access.
Perfect high-speed mobile coverage across the continent would require that infrastructure of some areas be massively subsidised by the rest of the population. To a degree, this is already happening, and we should be grateful for it. We should not stop seeking ways to have wall-to-wall coverage, but each black spot that disappears from the map is a cause for celebration.
Myself and the other five members of the Review committee are keen to gather your ideas on how we continue to erase mobile black spots from the map; but we also want ideas on how we harness this extraordinary data revolution for the betterment of our rural and regional communities.
There has been much noise made recently about how much data companies like Facebook are harvesting from our everyday use of our smartphones. That has its creepy side, but from an agriculture aspect there is also considerable scope to take data collected by our phones, cars, tractors and other connected farm machinery, and use it to power better business in the bush.
In agriculture, we have been incredibly innovative at leveraging natural ecosystems for human benefit. What might we do with the data ecosystems we are building around us?