Australian outback struggles to connect with data drought

The Australian outback isn’t just crying for water these days, as a data drought moves in to rural areas a myriad problems stemming from a lack of Wi-Fi connectivity have come to light. Precision agriculture today requires broadband and high-speed connectivity to compete in the innovative global marketplace. Yet, many rural areas lack the sufficient infrastructure needed, offering only spotty or basic wireless internet solutions.

In fact, The Australian Business Review reports that, “A total of 135,000 Austrian farms over 400 million hectares, that create enough food to feed 80 million people, representing 13 per cent of the country’s total export revenue.” With that in mind, Australia can no long afford to ignore the demand to increase farming innovation, and so it has begun to look at possible solutions for the geographically complicated continent.

A massive issue

A recent Facebook survey conducted by the Better Internet for Rural, Regional and Remote Australia (BIRRR) found that 88 per cent of Australians feel they don’t have services to meet all of their needs. Many living in the rural areas have voiced concerns over the noticeable “data drought,” but these concerns were often thought as a one-off individual problem. The BIRRR results have helped to bring to light just how massive this data drought issue is to farmers and others living in the rural areas of the country.

Living in the bush has proven hard to find reliable ways to connect even basic Wi-Fi long enough for remote education, banking and innovative agriculture tools. It’s not for a lack of trying, as nearly every farmer has at least one smartphone. Many have been forced back to the city, even just to rent office space, so they are able to conduct business and digital transactions without interruptions.

Is there a solution?

The National Broadband Network (NBN) launched satellite Sky Muster, earlier this year with an expected customer capacity of 240,000. Farmers lucky enough to live in range of this satellite are starting to see the benefits of real broadband connectivity. A second satellite is expected to launch later this year with the hope of reducing the data drought across the remote areas of the nation.

Another possible solution has been presented by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who believes mobile technology is the key to improving the agriculture and living conditions in the outback. Turnbull has promised to spend 60 million to improve mobile black spots in regional, rural and remote Australia. The AgForce vice-president and committee chair, Georgie Somerset recently said that the “increased investment in fixed wireless roll-out would also enable local Wi-Fi platforms, that can then support businesses and education in rural Queensland with high-speed reliable and affordable data.”

It is important to note that, today’s IIoT technology marketplace has begun to produce exciting new solutions to address remote Wi-Fi needs similar to the challenges being faced in Australia today. The steps Australia takes to find a suitable solution to its connectivity problems can set the stage for solving similar challenges in remote areas across the globe.

Scott Allen