From digital isolation to digital revolution.
Regional development is a key issue for rural and remote areas of Australia; however, innovation is often hampered by poor access to reliable and adequate telecommunications and a lack information on how to access and exploit digital technologies to ignite business growth. Many businesses not far from major urban centres have extraordinary tales of digital isolation. This stream will look at examples of digital innovation across primary and creative industries, tourism, community services, health, education, and other sectors.
Session Chair: Brendan Fitzgerald – Broadband for the Bush Committee
Speakers Thursday June 22 1.45- 2.45
Adjunct Professor Robin Eckermann, Director, TelSOC
Robin’s Presentation – Robin Eckerman
More than a decade before the NBN was conceived, Robin Eckermann led the creation of TransACT, serving as its Chief Architect from the $250m FTTK/VDSL rollout across Canberra. TransACT made next-generation broadband available to some 65,000 premises in the national capital. Since 2003 he has consulted widely in the field of advanced telecommunications infrastructure, and served on both the 2012 and 2015 Regional Telecommunications Independent Review Committees. He is passionate about the need to improve outcomes for regional Australians.
The rollout of the NBN generates much interest as well as heated ideological, emotional and political debate – often concentrated on limited aspects of the initiative, such as a broader mix of technologies now being used. In this climate, some bigger picture issues are often overlooked – such as affordability, and the spacio-economic benefits to be gained by extending coverage of the mobile networks beyond the present 30% of Australia’s land mass. Networks and network technology continually evolve, and the completion of the NBN rollout will simply be another milestone in Australia’s telecommunications journey. Politics and emotions need to be replaced by evidence-based, respectful debate on the key issues in order to guide developments beyond 2020 towards the best outcomes for Australians.
Joanne Pellew is an entrepreneur at heart. As a Noongar woman with experience gained from working in indigenous employment as well as the innate connection with her own people, Joanne is dedicated to bridging the gap between employers and indigenous workers. After developing Ochre Workforce Solutions and spearheading the iWork Jobsite, she has helped nearly 1000 indigenous people into work while building the largest database of indigenous workers in the country.
By creating the online jobs board, iWork Jobsite, Joanne pioneered a platform through which companies can directly interact with an ever-expanding network of active job-seekers. Crucially, with the consideration and understanding vital to the success of the platform, iWork was designed to be compatible not only with computers and smartphones, but also with older, pre-paid mobile phones. This innovative approach suits the needs of the Indigenous workers using the site, insuring that disadvantaged jobseekers are welcomed to the job-finding process.
Nigel Metz, SE Premium Wheat Growers Association – SEPWA WA
Nigel graduated from Muresk Institute of Agriculture, a branch of Curtin University of Technology, with a Bachelor of Agribusiness marketing. Nigel’s skills are varied and he has an incredible capacity to take on any project and run with it. He is currently working on improving the Data Network for farmers in the Esperance Port Zone and is involved part time with setting up a new business of his own. In recent years Nigel was involved in precision agriculture training from WA grain growers. In this role, he traversed the WA wheatbelt and saw firsthand the issues with data connection and its effect on farm-level adoption. Nigel is part of the WA based group “Rural Net” which is looking at alternative ways to deliver long term change in the way data connections are made in regional WA. The group is looking at a more participative model rather than the traditional top down Telco style. The overall concept to engage investment and skills at local regional levels, to build, maintain and operate our data connections into the future.
Australia is by comparison to our near Asian neighbours a high labour cost economy. In the agricultural sector (grains in particular), technology and mechanisation has enabled ongoing productivity growth in this high labour-cost structure. While adoption of technology at the farm level pushes ahead, they are now met by the ongoing roadblock of data connection. All modern software now incorporates some form of connection for management or service. Combined with this, these specialist technology skills in the ICT (Information and Communication Technology) sector are not currently in regional Australia.
Welcome to Australian Agricultures paradox. We are wed to technology for our farmers to compete in the international market place, yet constrained by connection and skills to implement this in regional locations.
How might we bring the wiz kids of tomorrow out into the bush, to program, maintain and operate our robotic tractors, when basic internet banking is a struggle for many farming businesses? Even if we can find and employed these people, how will they stay in our regional communities given the other data connection challenges for day to day life, including for example education and health?