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UNDERSTANDING the impacts of the COVID-19 health crisis on internet connectivity is the focus of a new survey.

Wimmera Development Association is calling on residents of the Wimmera and southern Mallee to test the speed of their home or mobile internet service between May 1 and 15. Results and feedback provided to the association will help paint a picture of the disadvantage the region is experiencing – particularly exacerbated by people working and learning at home.

Household access to the internet is generally poor across the Wimmera. An Addressing Regional Disadvantage – Infrastructure Assessment Framework report shows about 30 per cent of residents do not have access to the internet at all, compared to the Victorian average of 17 per cent.

The association’s executive director Chris Sounness said people deserved better.

“Our IT infrastructure has been tested like it has never been tested before,” Mr Sounness said.

“In the Wimmera and southern Mallee region, we tend to have connectivity challenges compared to other regions generally. This survey is a chance to document how we stack up – assessing the speed for downloads and uploads compared to what we actually pay for.”

Mr Sounness said collecting and collating the data was a vital step in the association’s advocacy.

“The data collected will be distributed to key stakeholders and used to advocate to improve services for our region,” he said.

“In a post-COVID world, telecommunications infrastructure and importance of its suitability for work and education is only going to increase. We need to ensure our infrastructure is fit for purpose, and competitive with other parts of Australia.

“The Wimmera and southern Mallee is a great place to live – and to remain a great place to live, we need telecommunications infrastructure that delivers to all residents and all parts of our region.”

Mr Sounness said people could participate in the survey as many times as they wanted, and the process was a simple click of a button.

An online test will assess the participant’s internet speed – requiring one test for 3G, 4G or 5G mobile internet; and three tests at staggered times throughout the same day for a home internet speed assessment.

“The more data we get, the richer the picture it will draw,” Mr Sounness said. “Currently some people are commenting that their service seems to be struggling to keep up with extra demands – and this is our chance to understand just how much pressure that is.

“We need to support anecdotes with data.”

The survey is open to all residents between May 1 and 15.

Mr Sounness said people wanting to complete the home internet speed survey could visit https://form.jotform.com/201118906587863

People wanting to complete the mobile internet survey can visit https://form.jotform.com/201191468111850

Wimmera Development Association is the peak advocacy body behind many major, emerging projects in the region. It supports businesses, promotes economic development opportunities to investors and is a key link between industry and governments, lobbying for improved infrastructure and for regional priority issues.