Editorial: Bendigo black spot saga should teach governments the importance of early technological adoption

Comfort and connectivity are not luxuries in 21st century Australia. 

Gone are the days of us being a quaint, antipodean backwater, or a vast and uncharted frontier territory.  

Our country is a modern one, a player on the world’s economic stage, and that means second-rate infrastructure is no longer acceptable.  

News today the Victorian government and telecommunication companies will team up to improve mobile phone reception for regional train commuters is welcome but overdue. 

For too long, taking a train to or from Bendigo has meant saying sayonara to the outside world. 

Vast stretches of central Victoria go by without even a skerrick of mobile reception, a situation seemingly at odds with our leaders’ push for livable rural communities.

As capital cities become increasingly crowded, people need confidence that trading their urban homes for bush surrounds won’t mean going offline. 

Parents on public transport still need to contact their families.  

Employees want to get a head start on their day’s work.  

And even though they will probably use their phones to Snapchat, schoolchildren should at least have the choice to study.

While in-carriage technology amplifying mobile coverage is about to be rolled out, and although it is being lauded as an Australian first, these tools have allowed European travellers to use their mobiles from inside a train carriage for nearly two decades.

Commuters should also be provided with an approximate timeline to delivery so they can begin counting down the days until reliable mobile reception is available on their commute. 

As technological capacity continues to grow, governments need to be among the first adapters, not the last few followers. 

That way, when their constituency comes online, the infrastructure is already there to support them.

The bungled NBN roll-out is an example of an opportunity lost, with the chance to future-safe internet access traded in for a cheaper, half-baked alternative.  

Such tardy uptake of the newest advancements will mean we again fall behind the technological curve and lamentations about out-of-date infrastructure carry on in perpetuity. 

Mark Kearney, journalist