THE WAIT IS OVER: General president Georgie Somerset said after three long years, AgForce's calls for a digital tech hub for regional Queensland communities have been answered.
THE WAIT IS OVER: General president Georgie Somerset said after three long years, AgForce's calls for a digital tech hub for regional Queensland communities have been answered. David Kelly

$60 million tech hub answers calls for improved connectivity

SOUTHWEST Queensland's growing need for improved digital technology will be met after Federal Minister for Regional Services and Deputy Leader Senator Bridget McKenzie announced $60 million in funding for a digital literacy hub last week.

The digital tech hub will provide those in rural and regional areas with vital independent information about the choices of digital technologies and applications with the goal of alleviating the current confusion and concern among regional consumers regarding the most appropriate solutions to meet their needs.

AgForce general president Georgie Somerset applauded the commitment and said after three long years, the organisation's calls for a digital tech hub for regional Queensland communities have been answered.

"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.

"Access to affordable, reliable phone and internet services is one of the biggest issues for those living, working and travelling in the bush,” 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 said she was thankful to Senator McKenzie for listening to the region's needs as well as the Regional Telecommunications Independent Review Committee for its recommendations.

"BIRRR has been calling for this for a long-time,” Ms Sparrow 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 is part of Round 4 of the State Government's $225 million Building our Regions (BoR) program.

Minister for State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning Cameron Dick said the Government is supporting five Southwest Queensland councils to deliver improved digital connectivity and lay the foundations for a new wave of economic development in the region.

"We're investing $3.4 million in our state's southwest to deliver much-needed telecommunications towers and other critical digital infrastructure,” Mr Dick said.

"Communities in Balonne, Murweh, Bulloo, Paroo and Maranoa currently not serviced by fibre optic connections will all benefit from increased internet speeds of up to 100 megabits per second.

"These upgrades will allow local businesses and residents to reliably access websites, streaming services, e-commerce activities and online education and training.

"The new digital networks will also be an enormous help for telehealth initiatives in these communities and assist emergency services communication, enabling better emergency response times.

"Councils estimate around 21 jobs will be supported during the construction phase of the project, with ongoing technical support jobs also required in each area once the networks are established.”

$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.

It is expected that the mobile coverage base stations announced in Round 4 will be operational by the second half of 2019.

Funding breakdown:

- Balonne Shire Digital Connectivity Project: $1,657,100 ($1 million BoR, $54,600 council, $602,500 industry - five construction jobs)

- Murweh Shire Digital Connectivity Project: $1,459,925 ($937,250 BoR, $522,675 industry - five construction jobs)

- Bulloo Region Digital Connectivity Project: $778,500 ($250,000 BoR, $250,000 council, $278,500 industry - three construction jobs)

- Paroo Shire Digital Connectivity Project: $1,650,900 ($1 million BoR, $650,900 industry - five construction jobs)

- Surat Digital Connectivity Project: $932,800 ($275,000 BoR, $275,000 council, $382,800 industry - three construction jobs)


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