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Lukewarm response to funding for rural digital hubs

Newshub logoNewshub 5 days ago Angie Skerrett
a man standing in front of a truck: Strong rural connectivity means farmers can take advantage of  the latest technology, like the Halter GPS cow collar. © Video: Newshub Image: Pexels Strong rural connectivity means farmers can take advantage of the latest technology, like the Halter GPS cow collar.

Government funding for the creation of "regional digital hubs" in rural areas has received a lukewarm response from a farming group.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that $21million will be invested in modern and reliable digital services for regional and rural communities.

The hubs will offer services such as free wifi connectivity, co-working spaces, and guidance on the use of the internet for business purposes.

However Federated Farmers said while the regional digital hubs are a good idea, the focus must remain on getting better connectivity to where people live and work.

"The investment really just highlights to us that rural business and communities deserve as much chance as their urban counterparts to flourish," said Feds telecommunications spokesperson Andrew Hoggard.

He said a good example of this need, would be the IRD's shift to payday filing on April 1. 

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"If you have decent connectivity then you will be able to comply with this change simply. Staff will be able to log their hours via their smart phones, which can go into your cloud based Payroll software, which will then automatically pay everyone, and send the required data to IRD," he said.

"However, without decent connectivity, smart phones are useless along with cloud based software, and then that rural businesses paperwork mountain just got a little higher."

He said technological advances are being made all the time and rural communities must be given access to those tools.

"We're caught between the competing forces of slowly catching rural up to what urban takes for granted and quickly seeing urban shoot further ahead of where rural could reach."

"Rural can't be left to lag behind the rest of the country."

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