The Internet – Clearing hurdles in the bush

The Internet is making real inroads in overcoming the problems of isolation
in the bush. With a broad choice of global, real time information on everything
from Chicago grain futures prices to the cricket results in England, Internet
usage in regional Australia is growing at 90% annually (ABS 1999).

Catherine O'Connor, manager of agricultural portal www.inFARMation.com.au,
sees the evidence every day: “The Internet means people in the bush are
now more informed than ever about the factors which determine their livelihoods.
More and more are finding it a fantastic tool to manage their farming
information and procurement needs, not to mention the social benefits
from being part of an online community.”

There is a growing number of agricultural websites catering to the full
spectrum of the online farmer's needs:

Information

With up-to-the-minute news, weather and commodity market reports, users
no longer need to rely as heavily on the traditional weekly sources of
information.

E-commerce

Farmers have the ability to purchase a full range of farming inputs online,
while giving access to a wider marketplace for selling outputs.

Already, the US experience has shown the internet can cut costs for
farmers significantly, said Ms O'Connor. "It means they can purchase
direct from suppliers, saving the 15% to 20% markup applied by the middlemen.
And then they win again when its time to sell their produce, enjoying
higher prices and lower transport costs from the wider markets found
via the Internet."

Interaction

People in rural areas gain new avenues for social and professional interaction
via web-based communities.

With slow download speeds in mind, web sites catering for rural Australia
provide a range of interactive elements which add a new dimension to
the traditional ‘bush telegraph'; things like buy & sell forums,
rural events diaries, farming Q&A discussions.

Ms O'Connor is watching inFARMation's virtual community develop through
its registered user base and online discussion forum. “I recently saw
a question posted by a farmer from Young (NSW) asking for advice on canola
production and it was answered the same day by a canola farmer in Canada.”

Buoyed by such success, inFARMation will soon offer a website directory
for every local Australian community. The aim is to create a network which
increases communication within and between rural towns and improves exposure
for local enterprises.

“The Net is really giving a big boost to many of Australia's so-called

‘dying' country towns. While it's not about to radically change life in
the bush as we know it, it is proving a big help in overcoming many of
the hurdles faced by the rural sector.”


For more information:
Chris Gosselin
Chief Executive Officer
InfoChoice Limited
PH: [02] 9247-6788
MOBILE: [0411] 537 830

Charles McElhone
Manager – inFARMation
PH: [02] 9247 6788

Tim Allerton
City Public Relations
PH: [02] 9281 7272

InfoChoice.com.au is Australia's
leading infomediary, providing independent, comparative data for consumers
in the banking, telecommunications, investment, travel and insurance markets.

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