The Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan (APAS) is launching a rural connectivity task force that will investigate the barriers to, and opportunities for, better internet and cellular service in rural Saskatchewan.
The task force will operate from September of this year to January of 2021, and will be led by agricultural producers from across the province. Meeting with industry experts, service providers, academics, and the public, the task force’s goal is to find out why a digital divide exists in Saskatchewan and identify the necessary steps to ensure equal access in the future, states a press release.
“For too long we have seen funding announcements and promises made by governments that would fix the issue, without seeing adequate results on the ground,” says Jeremey Welter, farmer, task force chair, and representative for the RM of Mariposa.
Including Welter, the task force is made up of five APAS representatives from five different rural municipalities that stretch across the southern portion of the province. Members include Ian Boxall, from RM of Connaught, Bill Prybylski, RM of Garry, Bev Pirio, RM of Laurier, and Paige Stewart, co-chair of the APAS Young Agricultural Producers Committee.
APAS has been working on the issue of rural connectivity since 2019, conducting a survey on rural internet and cell service, that found a high level of dissatisfaction with, disruption to, and lack of investment in rural connectivity. Since the onset of COVID-19, 80 per cent of respondents to the most recent survey indicated that their internet and cell service has worsened.
“This is an important step towards addressing the digital divide in our province,” says Todd Lewis, APAS president and farmer. “Saskatchewan’s rural residents are losing out on opportunities because of a lack of service. Reliable internet is needed for rural communities to support their businesses, students, health services, and overall quality of life.
APAS encourages all rural Saskatchewan residents to complete the survey, which you can find here.