In an increasingly connected world, access to fast, wireless broadband has revolutionised the way we work, study and play. But outside urban areas, people haven’t been able to take advantage of all that broadband has to offer. Thankfully, times are changing and the rollout of the Rural Broadband Initiative is getting rural New Zealand up to speed.
Diminishing the digital divide
The digital divide describes the separation between those with and without internet access – particularly broadband. It’s a very real issue; even those with limited technology and lower connection speeds are at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to educational, economic and social development. With access to reliable broadband and increased cellphone coverage, rural communities will experience the same benefits as those that live in cities.
Advantages of a connected community
New information and communications technologies (ICT) can assist a country’s economic growth, improve health care, facilitate online educational opportunities and enhance social capabilities. And broadband is key to taking advantage of these technologies. Fast, easy internet access delivers vital information for both career and business development. The ability to communicate digitally – by sending an email, chatting online, or on social media enables online community involvement and unites people. That helps to reduce a feeling of isolation that can affect those living rurally.
A healthy connection
Broadband can also greatly improve health and safety. It enables interoperable broadband public safety networks, which connect emergency personnel and allows communication across disparate networks, between jurisdictions and across agencies. Telemedicine, or the ability to provide clinical healthcare at a distance, helps to streamline health care services for rural communities. For example, broadband permits a rural doctor to send medical images to a specialist in larger city centres, or to any part of the world for an expert consultation, and rapidly send and receive test results to assist accurate diagnosis.
Taking the initiative
It’s not surprising that governments around the world including the United Kingdom, India and China are making rural connectivity a priority. Through the Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI), New Zealand’s Government has committed to providing 100 megabit a second (Mbit/s) services to 95 percent of rural schools and a 5Mbit/s broadband service to over 80 percent of rural households. Public hospitals and schools as well as many rural public libraries, will also receive a fibre connection. And it doesn’t stop there. 4G (700Mhz) is also being rolled out across rural communities delivering faster speeds across both mobile and wireless (rural) broadband services. In addition, cellphone coverage will get a boost, extending an additional 6,200 square kilometres around New Zealand to bring the total coverage area to 125,700 square kilometres. It’s a big step towards bridging the digital divide and helping the entire country progress.
Giving farmers an edge – from the office to the shed
New Zealand’s economy is highly dependent on international trade exports, which last year reached a record high of $37.7 billion, thanks to a particularly strong contribution from the agriculture sector. In line with the Government’s ambitious goal to double the value of primary exports by 2025, the agriculture industry needs to work more efficiently and productively than ever. And new technology and innovations are just the ticket.
Rise of the machines
High-speed internet and wireless networks along with laptops, tablets and smartphones help rural food and agribusiness producers to future-proof their businesses. Cutting edge technologies such as machine-to-machine (M2M) solutions transform the way rural businesses operate by enabling multiple business devices to connect and communicate. As a result, farmers can centralise controls, increase efficiencies and enhance safety and productivity in the field, while real-time data means problems are identified instantly and can be solved remotely.
Smart farm tools for better business
Technology that was developed right here in New Zealand is playing a big part in increasing agribusiness efficiency. Farmers can use E-ROAD to track delivery fleets while in transit. Precision Farming’s GPS technology monitors fertiliser applications to avoid wastage and ensure farmers meet regulatory guidelines. WaterForce can check, calibrate and certify water meters and soil monitoring equipment. Farm managers can even keep a watchful eye on employee safety with Farm Angel’s quad bike GPS system. Farmers can now get live updates and notifications from where they are working – be that the farmhouse or a client meeting in China. Thanks to accurate online records and taking the guesswork out of soil, water and fertilizer management, technology is also helping farmers adhere to strict new traceability and environmental compliance laws.
With fast broadband connections also comes the ability to check real-time market prices to know when and how much to sell for. It means being able to engage in a continuous conversation via instant messaging, telecommuting and videoconferencing. Digital communications break down the distance between business owners and their clients to facilitate better working relationships – and that’s got to be good for business.
Built especially for rural communities, Rural Wireless Broadband is more reliable and cost effective than satellite and much faster than dial up. A high performance wireless modem, boosted by directional antenna gives access to high speed broadband – as fast as town and city speeds.