Rural people should be getting the same level of connectivity in terms of broadband and mobile coverage as the people who live in urban areas.
That is unacceptable in a modern, first-world country like New Zealand. How is it still the case that many farmers and rural businesses around the country have to buy costly equipment to get broadband, while many others cannot even get mobile phone coverage at all?
As the Technology Users Association of NZ (TUANZ) chief executive Craig Young says, rural people should be getting the same level of connectivity in terms of broadband and mobile coverage as the people who live in urban areas.
It is even more important for rural people to have high quality connectivity, given their often remote locations and the fact that they are running significant businesses – not only farming, but other service related enterprises.
“We are expecting New Zealanders to make the most of this digital technology and services with government agencies and corporate organisations expecting customers to do more and more online,” Young explains. “Organisations like IRD and banks need to be aware that if people can’t connect or haven’t got good connectivity they should be able to do these things by the traditional means.”
He is absolutely right.
How can rural people be expected take advantage of digital technology when many do not have access to reliable, affordable broadband?
Meanwhile, the Climate Change Commission, in its recent report, said that if farmers and people in rural areas are going to be expected to meet all sorts of environmental targets and provide data to local and central government agencies, they need good connectivity.
If government and others are expecting the farming and the rural sectors to play their part in reducing the country’s carbon emissions, reliable and affordable connectivity is a must.
The Government needs to step up and make rural broadband connectivity and mobile phone coverage a priority in its post-Covid infrastructure plans. PM Jacinda Ardern promised to govern for all New Zealanders when she was re-elected last year.
How can this be so when young rural people risk being disadvantaged in their education, and others with their health and businesses?
Ardern and her Government now must act on her election night promise.
Rural people deserve same access to health, entertainment and business options as their urban counterparts.