To support the development of the telecommunications infrastructure in regional Western Australia, the federal government has announced an AU$22 million fund.

Investing in telecommunication technology within Western Australia was a key priority identified in last year’s Western Australia Infrastructure Audit Report, which looked at ways to fill the emerging gaps in agricultural infrastructure.

The State Agricultural Telecommunications Infrastructure Improvement Fund will help private and industry agricultural organizations in regional Western Australia to “construct or adopt emerging technologies” to stay competitive internationally, said the state’s regional development minister Terry Redman.

The fund will help strengthen the state’s agricultural sector and comes within Western Australia’s larger $75 million Infrastructure Investment Fund, looking to boost regional agricultural infrastructure through the $350 million ‘Seizing the Opportunity Agriculture’ initiative.

Additionally, the fund will seek to provide commercial and social benefits to the state’s regional areas by investing in local projects working with telecommunications technology. Redman said,

This Telecommunications Fund will invest in projects providing direct long-term benefits and impact on the agricultural industry. This could include improving mobile and internet coverage in innovative ways, improvements in knowledge management systems, or better utilization of wireless technologies and computer-aided or controlled devices.

Agriculture and food minister Mark Lewis said high-speed internet is needed for future business improvement and productivity gains.

Western Australia Infrastructure Audit Report highlighted “access to adequate mobile and internet services” as an ongoing issue amongst the states regional stakeholders, a common theme which pertains to regional communities Australia wide.

Internet coverage in regional areas remains a distinct issue, with some communities still operating on dial-up internet. Lewis said,

Autonomous vehicles, variable rate technologies, real-time weather applications and remote sensing are just a few of the opportunities which will open up to WA agriculture through blanket digital coverage of farming regions and enhanced download speeds.

The fund is part of a wider AU$75 million infrastructure investment fund for agriculture infrastructure across regional WA, the state said.

Aside from telecommunications, the Seizing the Opportunity initiative is also offering programs across bio-security, agricultural research, and education.

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