The 2018 Regional Telecommunications Review examined how people use telecommunications services in regional, rural and remote parts of Australia and how regional communities can maximise the economic, social and future opportunities enabled by digital technologies and services.
The Regional Telecommunications Independent Review Committee (the committee) was comprised of Mr Sean Edwards (Chair), Ms Wendy Duncan, Ms Johanna Plante, Ms Robbie Sefton, Ms Kylie Stretton and Mr Paul Weller. The committee consulted extensively. They hosted 22 public face-to-face consultations across regional Australia and received over 380 submissions from members of the public and key groups representing regional Australians.
The committee received more than 380 submissions to the issues paper. The committee delivered its report, 2018 Regional Telecommunications Review: Getting it right out there (the report), to Government on 30 September 2018. The report puts forward 10 recommendations for improving telecommunications in regional, rural and remote Australia. The Minister for Regional Services, Sport, Local Government and Decentralisation, Senator the Hon Bridget McKenzie, tabled the report and a Ministerial Statement in Parliament on 4 December 2018.
The report sets out that in order to maximise economic and social benefits for regional, rural and remote communities through the use of digital technologies, the following enablers need to be in place:
- access to telecommunications infrastructure
- modern and appropriate consumer protections
- digital inclusion of regional, remote and rural Australians
The report makes a compelling case of the benefits of increased digital connectivity for the regions. Economic modelling from the Accelerating Precision Agriculture to Decision Agriculture project indicates that digital agriculture could increase the gross value of Australian agricultural production by $20.3 billion, a 25% increase over 2014-15 levels. The greatest gains are expected to come from remote monitoring, automation, better tailoring of inputs such as fertiliser and seed, and environmental benefits such as efficiencies in water and pest management.
Tourism in regional Australia is another growth area. Submissions to the review emphasise that connectivity can drive increased tourism. Visitors to the regions have increased on average by 4.1% per annum over the past five years. Research from Tourism Australia shows that 289 million visitor nights were spent in regional Australia in 2017, up from 234 million in 2012. The report includes first-hand examples from regional tourism operators on the challenges they have faced and how technologies have or could improve their businesses.