Category Archives: Local Government

Marketing Digital Hume

The fifth and final strategic focus area for Digital Hume is Marketing Digital Hume, aiming to strengthen the region’s branding and identity as a forward-looking and connected ‘smart region’. Digital Hume will promote a great environment and a diverse, modern economy that is attractive to current and future investors and communities.

There are now many communities across Australia making the transition to digital technologies and creating innovative ways to put their community on the map. One such example is the community development organisation All We Need is Right Here in the Shire of Kalamunda.

All We Need is Right Here have built a comprehensive community connection website, providing a range of ways for members of the community to connect with people, organisations, culture, business and local assets.

The platform utilises digital networks to facilitate the use and appreciation of resources already at the disposal of the community. The relationship is shown below (taken from www.allweneedisrighthere.org)

www.allweneedisrighthere.org

The site allows individuals to make their own profiles, possesses an interests directory, clubs and organisations directory and an online market place. Community members can even post their own news and stories.

Project Officer, Maria D’Souza says “the aim of the website is to make visible all the amazing assets we have in the Shire of Kalamunda and to connect people around those assets”.

Whether it be on a designated community site or simply a collection of online networks like social media, all communities, including Hume, can use the digital economy to connect and strengthen their networks. This in turn will provide a more unified and productive place to live and put Hume on the map.

Below are a list of online resources available through this project to help you stay connected with the Hume region and its progress in the digital economy:

 

 

 

Public Services in a Digital Age

Hume’s third strategic focus area is working towards transforming public services. The objective is to use new digital media to create smarter, better designed, more accessible public services with reduced costs and higher impact.

Revenue and expenditure pressures are set to intensify in the coming decades as expectations increase for governments to cut the relative cost of public administration while simultaneously improving public services. Extra pressure will fall on the shoulders of government as a result of Australia’s aging population; dramatically affecting government revenue, expenditure and demand for services.

Part of the movement will involve the education and training of the public to facilitate their use of the digital services. Brisbane and Adelaide are already running Digital Hubs to provide training to those who need it. The Adelaide based hub is also offering a Digital Enterprise Program for business and an innovation lab. These investments in the present will no doubt provide return in the future as the public participate in higher levels of digital service provision from government departments.

New tools are being continuously developed to improve the efficiency of government service. Between open source programs and the growing use of applications, the options available to government departments are increasing while the cost is steadily on the decline. One great example is the Snap Send Solve app, which allows anyone to take a photo of a public issue (such as a pot hole or fallen tree), send it to the appropriate council and have the issue resolved.

Code for America is a not for profit organisation in the US that works with US cities to develop applications to help improve the delivery of public services. Some interesting apps include Adopt a Hydrant (members of the public assist council to maintain water hyrants) and Street Mix (members of the public can design their ideal neighbourhood). A full list of apps can be seen at http://www.codeforamerica.org/apps/

Albury Wodonga have outlined the top five Council services that members of the public would like to utilise online. They are:

  1. Customer service enquiries
  2. Paying rates electronically
  3. Voting in local government elections
  4. Submitting forms and applications
  5. Participating in community consultations and workshops

So what can you do to get the most from government services now and in the future? Keeping yourself educated on new digital technologies is an important starting point. Get involved across social media platforms, stay up to date with council apps and online services, perform more admin processes online (for example, pay your rates) and most importantly talk and share about digital technologies in your local communities. Sharing knowledge is an invaluable part of taking the next steps forward in the digital economy.

Hume Region Digital Strategy

RDA Hume recently released the Digital Strategy for the Hume Region. Over the coming weeks we will be blogging about the five key strategy focus areas which are:

  1. Maximising the impact of the NBN
  2. Striving to get “all online by 2017″
  3. Working towards transforming public services and community engagement
  4. Encouraging digitally enabled business
  5. Marketing Digital Hume

Please join the conversation via Facebook and Twitter.

In the meantime the strategy can be downloaded on our Digital Strategy page.

Our Neighbourhood – Australia Post Neighbourhood Community Grants

(Source: Our Neighbourhood, 2013)

(Source: Our Neighbourhood Website, 2013)

Australia Post via their Community Grants Program have opened a funding round for organisations. The program aims at building healthier, more vibrant and inclusive communities which have strong capabilities to leave a positive legacy around Australia. The program aims to develop this level of capability at a local and national level.

Key Dates

Monday, 13 May 2013 – Applications Open

Friday, 28 June 2013 – Applications Close

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Visit The Digital Rural Futures 2013 Conference

With 12 keynote speakers and 58 breakout and poster presentations the conference offers the chance to interact with some of Australia’s mostDigital Futures Region innovative business leaders, academics and regional development organisations, as well as farmers and farmer peak bodies, to set the scene and increase general awareness of delegates across a range of challenges and opportunities. See Professor David Lamb from UNE talking about the Conference running in Armidale 26-28 June 2013.

Click here to learn more about the conference.

Falls Creek – a digital economy contradiction

For the latest in our series on digital economy planning in Victoria’s North East we spoke to David Herman, CEO of Falls Creek Resort Management. This article explores some of the issues that we discussed with David, looking at current and future infrastructure needs for Falls Creek, and more generally at broadband connectivity issues for alpine communities in Australia.

Falls Creek is a location facing a major challenge with digital infrastructure. In 2012, the Australian ski industry is highly developed in its use of digital media to communicate with visitors from Australia and around the world. This has been vital for marketing the regions in the lead up to and during each ski season, and for communicating with visitors after they arrive. Victoria’s alpine resorts have also looked to develop sustainable industries outside the main winter boom, such as all-season tourism options. However, their plans for the future are overshadowed by the potential for limited or no access to the high-speed broadband services that are expected to transform the economies of other regional towns.

In many regards, Australia’s alpine resorts are some of our most sophisticated regions in terms of their adoption of digital technologies. Weather reports, snowfalls, news, events and other information is sent out hourly via the Falls Creek website and social media accounts. This year, the resort became the first Australian town to be equipped with Near-Field Computing (NFC) technology – allowing visitors to over 50 local businesses to instantly access resort information via their smartphones.

The town transforms during the winter, as visitors flock to the region. Each year, telecommunications infrastructure is placed under greater strain as visitors bring more mobile devices with them. This year telecommunication services could not keep up with the increased demand – leaving Falls Creek visitors with limited access while the company struggled to increase capacity. The resort’s mobile network is expected to improve, but it demonstrated the problems that Falls Creek faces when demand from visitors outstrips the resources available to the town.

Currently, Victoria’s alpine resorts are not included in the NBN rollout plan. The remote location and low permanent population of each resort count against them, and Falls Creek Management has been informed that the resort is not listed at present to receive NBN access. The town has a relatively small population outside of the peak season, with only 250 permanent residents – although they are an important tourism hub, receiving approximately 600,000 visitors each year. During the 18 week ski season alone, close to 400,000 people arrive in the resort village.

Regional advantages

The benefits of living 1,600 metres above sea level aren’t limited to snow on the slopes. Around the world, alpine regions are beginning to use their low temperatures and high altitude locations as competitive regional advantages. The development of sustainable all-season tourism options has been a priority for Falls Creek.

Falls Creek is already used by many athletes for high altitude training, between November and March each year. High-profile teams like the Melbourne Rebels and Geelong Football Club have begun sending their players up to the mountains for physical conditioning on the region’s running trails, cycling routes and lake courses. To further develop their capacity in this area, the resort is planning a $30 million Altitude Training Facility – incorporating football field, gym, swimming pool and sports medicine facilities. This would fill a local niche for specialist high altitude facilities, such as those offered by the USOC’s flagship training centre in Colorado Springs.

Even outside the ski season, low temperatures can be an advantage. As Australia moves to a more service-oriented economy, cloud computing options for software and data storage are increasingly important. Data centres generate a lot of heat, and cooling them to workable temperatures requires vast amounts of energy. Across the northern hemisphere, tech giants have begun to build their newest data centres in cold regions – making use of the low ambient temperatures to reduce their energy consumption. These include Facebook’s new data center in Lulea, Sweden, Yahoo’s hydro-powered facility in Lockport, New York State and Google’s €200 million investment in Hamina, Finland. The scale of these developments show that major players in this industry are serious about the benefits of operating in these regions.

With only 0.01% of Australia’s surface area in alpine regions, we have a limited number of communities that could take advantage of their natural cold climate; developing new industries to service a digital economy while reducing our environmental impact. Leaving resort communities like Falls Creek ‘off the grid’ of the national broadband network seems a short-sighted plan: successful alpine towns around the world are showing that the mountains are far more than just a winter holiday destination.

Regional promotions – social media and tourism at the Regional City of Wangaratta

For the latest addition to our series on local government in Victoria’s North East, we spoke to Emma Keith – Tourism Development Officer at the Rural City of Wangaratta.

 

Key facilities in the Wangaratta council all have active social media platforms, chosen to complement their existing promotions. These are being used to build and engaging with local audiences, and to reach out to prospective visitors. Wangaratta’s visitor information centre currently uses a YouTube channel, lists their walking tours on TripAdvisor and Facebook, and has begun dabbling in Twitter and Pinterest. Similarly, the Wangaratta Performing Arts Centre has built up a successful Facebook presence, with over 900 followers and 1,000 location check-ins. They have taken a personable approach, sharing ‘behind the scenes’ photos and stories with friends of the Arts Centre.

Another example of successful online activity in the region is the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail – a cycling route connecting Wangaratta, Rutherglen, Beechworth, Myrtleford and Bright, linking visitors to local food, wine and accommodation. The trail is actively promoted on many social media channels, such as TripAdvisor, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook.

Emma notes that the local wine makers are very active in regional promotion, particularly through initiatives like King Valley Prosecco Road wine trail. Wineries like Dal Zotto, Pizzini and Brown Brothers use Twitter to share stories from the region, helping to raise awareness of the region, and engage people during their stay. “When they come to the vineyard, they feel like they are already part of that conversation – like they already know the people behind the cellar doors.” The council has also heard of local wineries using Twitter to organise direct sales to B2B and wholesale customers.

While many of Wangaratta’s arts and tourism promotions are highly active on social media, Emma also discusses ways to help those who are still lagging behind. Some businesses are reluctant to start as they feel that setting up and learning to use a social media account may be too complex or time consuming. Improving access to social media training and mentoring helps to overcome this barrier, giving businesses the confidence to get involved in this new economy.

Wangaratta Council is beginning a 12 month project on YouTube that will encourage local residents to contribute user generated content in the form of a 90 second video grab. These give people the opportunity to share the “best things in their own back yard” in their own words. For this, the council hopes to act as facilitators – allowing people to talk within the community, instead of sending official messages in to them.

The council also began trialling Facebook ads earlier in 2012, for tourism promotions around the NAB Cup match to be held at the Wangaratta Showgrounds. They created a series of ads with destination-focussed imagery, designed to inspire and motivate different groups, improving attendance at these events. Initial ads targeted fairly broad demographics, aimed at people in Melbourne and regional NSW. Local operators saw an immediate increase in demand, with some selling out events across the long weekend. The range of statistics available from these campaigns provide a great deal of insight to council into the demographics for these events, such as the location, age, and other interests of the people involved. These can be used to further refine the promotion of other events in the region.

Tree changes, regional economies and the NBN at Alpine Shire Council

For today’s update, we spoke to Clayton Neil about the NBN, business and local government in the Alpine Shire Council.

 

Clayton spoke about how increasing numbers of people are moving to the Alpine Shire region for a ‘tree change’ – relocating to the mountains for a lifestyle change, but often bringing their work with them as well. Where existing infrastructure has allowed them to, many have relocated entire businesses away from Melbourne. These are typically the businesses that are most excited about the NBN rollout, as it gives them better access to staff and customers.

Many traditional business challenges still apply, such as finding appropriately skilled staff and evolving business processes to keep up with industry changes. Clayton notes that new technology is not a panacea – while new tools can bring many benefits, they are still just one part of the mix for each business. As the NBN rollout continues, councils can play a valuable role as conduits during this period – linking local residents and businesses with relevant information, research and contacts.

Digital economy planning at Indigo Shire Council

For the latest in our series on local government Digital Economy planning, we spoke to Will Rickwood from Indigo Shire Council, covering the Beechworth, Chiltern, Rutherglen and Yackandandah regions.

 

Will talks about businesses in the Indigo Shire that have been highly active online: from the earliest days of the web, to the widespread adoption of social media. Will discusses examples such as web developers WWW.ART (previously covered in our Case Study series here) and Beechworth’s Bridge Road Brewers (who have built a strong following on both Facebook and Twitter). Winemakers from around Beechworth and Rutherglen have also combined blogs, websites, Facebook and Twitter to promote the region online.

Successful businesses share a willingness to innovate and find new ways to improve their business promotions, online sales, and access a variety of other advantages. Barriers to the adoption of online tools include skill shortages within businesses, and a lack of time to explore them properly – especially among small retailers. Local government also has an important role to play in raising awareness and providing training to businesses, in order to prepare them for the digital economy.

The Indigo Shire also contains numerous examples of how the local community can work to promote their region online, such as the Beechworth Online website, official visitor guide and mobile app. The council  hopes to apply this approach to online tourism promotions to other areas across the region.

Digital Local Government at the City of Moreland

In our latest update, we speak to Peter Fitz – project manager for Moreland City Council‘s Digital Local Government project, in Brunswick. Brunswick is home to one of the early test sites for the NBN, and the council is looking at how the network can be used most effectively.

 

Moreland Council will use the NBN to improve their customer service via a tool called Moreland Connect. This allows residents to connect to council staff via a video-calling system, using computers at home or work. This allows staff to consult with residents about council issues, such as planning or service improvements. The project pilot is currently limited to the small NBN footprint, but will treble in size in the next 12 months .

An additional benefit will be the ability to film some of those customer encounters, with appropriate permissions, to create video stories that can be watched later – particularly important for after hours communications, when council offices and staff aren’t directly accessible. Later, they will also use the service to give people access to forms and other documents, allowing them to do business with the council after hours.

The service is funded by Department of Broadband, Communications and Digital Economy, and will launch in October 2012; increasing in size over next 2.5 – 3 years. For Moreland, it marks a shift towards a more complete customer service experience.

Peter notes that YouTube is currently the second most popular social media site, attracting hundreds of millions of viewers – and it is an important area for local government to explore. However, the content that we put online will be important. “If we make things boring,” he explains, “no-one is going to use it. Part of our challenge is to increase the content, make it interesting, and use the medium.”

Earlier this week, we covered Peter’s award-winning work on “Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Communications” – using visual storyboards and animations to communicate across language barriers. If you missed it, you can read that article here.