The UK environment agency DEFRA met IT suppliers on 21st May to discuss ways of consolidating CAP funding applications online. In a briefing for the pre-tender conference, the agency suggested that it was expecting to budget for one or more contracts valued in tens of millions of pounds.
One of the specific aims of migrating CAP adminstration online is to: “…reduce physical and telephone customer interaction through an efficient digital by default solution.” Internet coverage in rural areas is a very mixed bag. A member of the Family Farming Association confirmed to ARC that: “…many farmers can’t even get broadband at all.”
Ordinary broadband services over existing telephone lines start to degrade when cable runs between telephone exchanges and subscribers approach six kilometres. There are technical fixes, but these lack the economies of scale that town dwellers enjoy.
Basic satellite installations start at around GBP 200, but can cost considerably more. Monthly operating costs are higher than terrestrial counterparts.
Apart from changes in signal strength due to weather conditions, the most frequent problem with satellite links is the time lag for signals to reach a terrestrial host for processing and responses to be sent (latency). A BBC estimate of the line speed requirements for paying bills online is only marginally greater than what is needed for internet telephone (VOIP) use.
However, satellite latency levels can make VOIP connections unusable. Filling in forms online could suffer a similar time lag if data has to make a round trip to a remote host before keystrokes entered by a local user appear on the screen.
The tender document can be found here.