Tag Archives: barriers to 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.

Uni TV Switched At The Rural Clinical School in Shepparton

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Ken Clarke watching a dental procedure on Uni TV. (Source: IBES, 2013)

The Victorian Minister for Technology, The Hon Gordon Rich-Phillips officially switched on the Uni TV project on Friday 12 April at the Rural Clinical School in Shepparton.

About The Uni TV Project

The Uni TV project delivers dental education via Internet Protocol Television (IPTV). Dental education has usually been restricted to face to face interaction where students were forced to attend classes in person. However, with the launch of the program students can now view transmissions live and on demand of high-definition 2D and 3D images of procedures.

Final year students in the Doctor of Dental Science will trial this technology to enhance their learning. Uni TV provides them with a great opportunity to stay up to date with their course from a remote location. For example, students from the Rural Clinical School in Shepparton can access relevant material for their studies even while away from the main campus.

Speaking at the switch on, IBES Senior Research Fellow Ken Clarke said, “IPTV infrastructure was designed to be scalable. It can provide multiple simultaneous channels for many independent ‘broadcasters’. Various educational, community, and professional organisations could use IPTV to reach their own target audiences with specialised services supported by various business models.”

Uni TV is a partnership between the Melbourne Dental School and the Institute for a Broadband-Enabled Society (IBES), Ericsson Australia, AARNet and Panasonic Australia. It is supported by the Victorian Government’s Broadband-Enabled Innovation Program (BEIP).

Telecommunications report has some key findings for Hume Region

A recently released report by Deloitte Access Economics, entitled “Telecommunications Spend and Demand in Victoria, 2012
highlighted a number of key findings relevant for the Hume Region. The report was developed for the Department of Business and Innovation and contains some important findings. They include:

  • An estimated two-thirds of households and businesses in Victoria will not have access to NBN by 2016 which will mean high levels of unmet demand.
  • Unmet demand in the Hume Region in 2011 was 13.6% of total premises within the region (for broadband greater than 8 and less than 50 mbps), and 12.5% for broadband greater than 50 mbps. This is estimated to increase to 43% by 2016.
  • Mobile data demand is anticipated to grow rapidly.
  • Dial-up data and fixed voice will continue to decline.

Detailed information by LGA in relation to unmet demand for broadband and demand for telecommunications estimates for 2016 can be sourced from the Telecommunications Spend and Demand in Victoria 2012 Report Final.

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.

Barriers to developing a digital economy strategy

ARUP, the worldwide consulting, design and engineering firm, are currently developing a digital economy strategy for RDA – Hume region.

Having conducted the research and analysis stage of the engagement,  the barriers and challenges to be overcome have been identified for the region. The two key barriers to have been identified are infrastructure and culture; these were closely followed by skills, technology and cost. Importantly these challenges have been identified through engagement and consultation with the local community with workshops having been conducted with local businesses, utility, health and education providers, residents and local government.

A selection of comments from the workshops participants (across local government, service providers and local businesses) represent the barriers identified by the community:

“Our systems are stuck in the dark ages”

“We just don’t have the skills or the training”

“2 barriers to tele-health – patients don’t have access in their home and we don’t have the skills to co-ordinate services”

“We don’t want to be left behind. Roll out coming late and  we haven’t got access to shared services. Doesn’t matter what technology you get if you don’t have the infrastructure”

“To be an efficient and capable organisation suitable connectivity to transfer large data sets is required in all areas of our catchment….”

“We are fearful of using social media in case we get sued”

“There is no social media policy because Councillors are scared by it”

“We’ve only got Telstra really and service providers cost”

Do you live and work in the Hume region? Do you agree with the comments above? Please provide your thoughts and comments on the barriers to developing a digital economy strategy?