26 June 2023

Narrandera residents get the lowdown on hi-tech at region's first Connectivity Roadshow

| Katrina Condie
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Farmer on phone

Being connected and tech savvy is more important than ever for families on the land. Photo: Telstra.

It’s hoped a series of mobile phone and digital technology workshops recently held in Narrandera will be a springboard for connectivity planning and will help identify solutions that can be implemented in the region.

Hosted by Narrandera Shire Council, Telstra and the Regional Tech Hub, the area’s first Connectivity Roadshow aimed to educate local farmers, residents and the business community about network improvements and how to improve their own connectivity. The workshops also showcased the latest in technology.

While reliable internet and mobile services are particularly critical to regional Australians, regional NSW continues to fall behind the national average of 71 (out of 100) on the Australian Digital Inclusion Index and the roadshow aims to help address that lag.

The Narrandera Shire Connectivity Roadshow provided a forum for residents to share their experiences and concerns with Telstra, and focused on a range of connectivity issues including mobile phone and internet access, as well as education around smartphone use, plans, data and security.

Hobby farmer Eve Webb said she learned a lot about cyber security and phone scammers.

“Mostly what I got out of the course was how to keep details secure,” she said.

“Not to use a phone case that is also a wallet containing things like your licence and Medicare card and credit cards – all things that have information that helps to hack your phone; change passwords often, turn your phone off once a week and check bank accounts regularly for suspicious transactions.

“I thought I was pretty phone savvy, but you don’t know what you don’t know.

“We learnt about using the iCloud and, in particular, I found I was paying too much as I was paying for more cloud storage than I needed. I am now saving over $100 a year.”

The sessions, presented by Chris Taylor and David Saunderson from Telstra’s Regional Australia team, gave attendees an overview of Telstra services in the region including network coverage and an update on the 3G closure scheduled for June 2024.

Narrandera Shire Council Marketing, Tourism and Economic Development Coordinator Tiffany Thornton said the session also gave residents the opportunity to speak with Telstra representatives about their home and mobile connectivity.

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The Tech Exec ran workshops with the public and council staff, which included digital mentoring sessions, and sessions on the effective use of phones, tablets and laptops including choosing and downloading apps, device maintenance and cyber security.

“Overall, the roadshow brought together a broad range of people together to discuss and learn about connectivity issues and how we can look at improving overall connectivity for our area.”

This roadshow identified issues facing local residents including patchy coverage, poor internet connection, NBN and internet plan issues and outlined what technology options were available now to improve connectivity.

Chris said mobile coverage could be impacted by a variety of factors, including the network people use, the type of handset they have, distance from the tower, terrain, such as hills and tall trees, as well as building infrastructure.

With farm machinery becoming more high-tech and sophisticated over the years, landowners are embracing technology and using precision farming techniques to maximise yields and reduce waste by using sensors, drones, and GPS mapping tools.

Tiffany said the use of high-tech farming equipment was essential to increase productivity and profitability in rural areas, including Narrandera Shire, and therefore reliable connectivity was more important than ever.

“Internet connectivity is also important for rural areas as it enables businesses to conduct online transactions, customers to shop online, farmers to access online training courses, connect with buyers and suppliers, and conduct research about crop production and disease control,” she said.

“Internet connectivity is vital for rural students, as it enables them to access online resources and stay connected with their teachers.”

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Smartphones have become an essential tool for rural residents and are used to access weather forecasts, market information, crop prices, and to communicate with their team members during the harvesting season.

“Smartphones also play an important role in rural healthcare as they enable people in remote areas to access telemedicine services,” Tiffany added.

“Overall, devices, internet, and phones have become essential to increase productivity and improve the quality of life for rural residents. With the help of technology, rural areas have become more connected, productive and economically viable.”

With around 30 people attending the workshops, Chris said it was hoped similar events would be held in the region soon, although none were planned at this stage.

If you’re experiencing issues with coverage, need to troubleshoot services, or find information specific to regional customers, here’s everything you need to know.

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