Connecting the regions, connecting Victorians27/02/2018
Many people living in rural and regional Victoria have a different digital experience to those in the city. In some areas, it can be challenging to do business, access information, make mobile phone calls or use tools for education or lifestyle such as social media or video calls.
The Victorian Budget 2017/ 18 included $45 million for the Connecting Regional Communities Program (CRCP). The CRCP builds on and extends the Victorian Government’s successful investments to improve regional mobile coverage and free public WiFi projects – which are in addition to the work on Regional Rail Connectivity. In 2017, each of these projects were brought under the same umbrella and are now collectively referred to as the ‘Connecting Victoria’ program.
The regional digital infrastructure investments that are part of Connecting Victoria include:
- $45 million for the Connecting Regional Communities Program (CRCP):
- $11 million for the Mobile Black Spot Program, focused on flood and fire prone areas
- $7 million for free public WiFi in Shepparton and Geelong
- $7 million for regional enhanced broadband projects in Morwell, North Geelong and Horsham
- $12 million for projects to support the adaption of internet enabled on farm technologies in Victoria’s North West, the Macalister Irrigation District, the Murray-Goulburn and the Serpentine region
- $7 million for a state-wide Digital Economy Plan initiatives to drive innovation and increase the competitiveness of regional industries
- $1 million to improve regional services through access to government communications infrastructure
- Localised digital plans for each of the nine Regional Partnerships.
- $33 million for previous mobile black spot removal (attracting $89 million in combined funding from the Commonwealth Government, mobile carriers and local government)
- $18 million for Regional Rail Connectivity
- $16.4 million to improve digital connectivity for regional schools.
The economic and social benefits of improved digital connectivity are well-articulated. Improved digital connectivity would bring considerable benefits to regional Victoria that are aligned with improving health, education and employment outcomes, better supporting businesses and increasing economic growth and jobs in the region.Each of the nine Regional Partnerships will be closely involved in the shaping of the digital plans for their region. Partnership members will engage with their communities on their digital priorities, creating a digital plan that addresses local needs. Consultations have already started with the Central Highlands and Gippsland Regional Partnerships, with other regions to follow. The plans will be finalised by June 2018, then recommended to the Victorian Government.