That is the question posed by Digital Futures: a shared report produced by The Regional Australia Institute and Vodafone as a guide for accelerating community collaboration to deliver improved telecommunications services.
Digital Futures: Community success
The Digital Futures report identifies the significant opportunities telecommunications investments (including The Mobile Black Spot Program and the NBN) present for the Northern Inland region of NSW and suggests other regions should employ the cooperative development approach exemplified to achieve similar success.
While mainly focused on the competitive advantage to local businesses and farmers, the benefits of improved telecommunications services extends to inevitable improvements in health, education, emergency, and government services.
Through research and economic modelling from Deloitte, NBN Co, plus local and federal government agencies, Digital Futures identifies and unpacks the trends and challenges facing regional Australian businesses. This ranges from agribusiness and the enormous potential of (Internet of Things based) precision agriculture, through to mobile (m)-commerce and cloud-based data services – valuing the increase to Australian productivity at around $11.8 billion by 2025.
What drives success?
The study of Northern Inland NSW presents a complex system of stakeholders that have come together to secure greater mobile investment in the region. These ‘key players’ specific to the area were identified, including a short manifest on how to make every layer of the system work together:
- Governments (Federal, State, and Local) (resources and funding e.g. The Mobile Black Spot Program)
- Telecommunications companies (providing voice and data services to customers)
- Education providers like The University of New England (research and development e.g. SMART Farm Initiative)
- Regional Development Australia – Northern Inland (Strategic direction for regional communities)
- Local Councils (local resources and strategy)
- Community groups (local leadership and education services)
One great example of cooperative development in the report is the White Rock Wind Farm, west of Glen Innes in NSW. Several different groups came together to build this new site under the Mobile Black Spot Program including the Federal and NSW Governments, Inverell Shire and Glen Innes Severn Councils, Vodafone and wind farm company, Goldwind.
In Tamworth meanwhile, over 4,000 people were given access to digital training via the Tamworth Digital Hub to increase access to online businesses and services.
What you can do to help
Northern Inland NSW is a major beneficiary of round one of the Government’s Mobile Black Spot Program, with 28 new and upgraded mobile phone towers planned for the region.
To achieve similar success, it is crucial for other regional communities to work together, including local government, businesses and telecommunications providers, to take full advantage of the benefits of mobile services.
To guide this process, the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) has developed a Community Consultation Guide for regional areas to develop a ‘road map’ for co-investment plans, with a goal to boost telecommunication services.
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