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A Digital Future for Queensland now

Helping our regions harness, employ and engage with new media is the vital key to a sustainable future.

The Digital Future – A Boon or a Bandit

By Mark Miller

Recent calls from State Information and Technology Minister Ian Walker for submissions on digital solutions for Queensland should be sending alarm bells ringing in communities in regional Queensland about whether the Digital Future is A Boon or a Bandit.

A state focus to on-line dependence, the on again-off again NBN, or the advent of superfast broadband and all that it offers to regional communities and towns could in fact become an enemy of the town if local communities don’t move quickly to harness and harvest the advantages.

Local communities may not being doing enough to prepare themselves for the onslaught of an information super highway.

If some of these communities aren’t careful the digital focus and NBN could become the major one way highway, heading out of town. And taking with it more intellectual property, dollars and commercial opportunities than it returns.”

Having worked extensively with regional communities across Queensland, ir seems that there’s a long-held myth that technology is always a friend to more isolated and regional communities.

That is not always the case. If we look at history, traditional media for example, where networking, aggregation, press affiliations delivered multiple channels and more access to the world to these communities we can overlook what was lost. The local flavor and in some cases, access to local communication channels.

We tend to focus on what is to come and forget what is already on offer locally. As such and gradually that local message is replaced with a louder and stronger message external to the community. It then becomes more about down the road or around the world.

Mr Miller says there’s no doubting the web and social media’s ability to open doors and establish links at every level and those advantages that can bring.

But the towns and communities themselves however have to embrace the technology and begin to move in synch with it. That’s a big ask  for a small community of say five to twenty thousand people who are now battling with a marketplace  five times the size or worse,  hundreds of times their size. It’s hardly what you can call a level playing field

A failure of some communities not to more actively engage in new media utilization has also been a key cause of what he describes as the sucking drain for regional communities.

An almost universal example exists in those communities that battle with FIFO/DIDO issues. The workers arrive in town, are bused to  communal  hubs that provide a subsistence existence for them while they are there and then, they are bused back to an airport or drive straight past town as they leave. They usually do not even venture into the township itself.

It’s because locally the community isn’t engaging and capturing them. There is in each of these towns much on offer. More than just a daily 12 hour slog and shared hot bed. It is just that the workers don’t know what is there nor do we make it easy for them.

While many local communities have looked to the internet as a way forward, they may have missed the boat.

We have seen a plethora of regional directories, web sites, information all floating around the cyber space cosmos. What is missing is a unified approach from communities to capture their local feel and present it in a cohesive and appealing fashion.

And yet the answer again lies in history.

The old formula of co-op approaches is probably a way forward with the use of new technology. Targeting the appeal and the offer collectively and then individually. It is very easy for a community to see the web or new media as a panacea to its identity or as commercial nirvana but unless it is harnessed it simply fills the clouds.

By establishing clear parameters and working collaboratively with what is at hand creates an organic growth pattern that will see communities not only encourage local engagement but can lure and broaden markets.

There’s now a small window for communities in regional areas to begin to prepare for the onslaught of superfast broadband and new media and to capitalise on it.

Communities should remember that what makes them unique is their appeal. Their USP- (unique selling point). Those communities and their businesses and oprganisations are in fact their own flavour.

We just have to be sure we don’t let globalization eat that up with a rush to out of town to discover the world. We need them to stop and taste the flavour. Otherwise we could all end up broken down on the side of the information super highway waving for help as it rushes by us.


About Mark Miller