Canberra is a city full of early adopters of new technology, innovators and entrepreneurs. As a government, we have built on Canberrans' embrace of change by focussing on agility and innovation in response to digital disruption.
Released last year and developed in consultation with industry and the community, the Digital Canberra Action Plan 2014-2018 is our roadmap for how we lead, inspire and collaborate in the digital services age – how we identify, test and implement ideas and solutions that take advantage of digital technology.
The Digital Canberra Action Plan focuses on five key areas:
Smart City – enhancing our sense of place and access via free public Wi-Fi, digital arts, a vibrant CBD and digital spaces.
Digital Economy – accelerating our digital economy to strengthen the workforce, boost productivity, build ICT capacity and facilitate collaboration.
Connected Community – new ways of engaging with democracy and participating in civil society through social media, more flexible working arrangements and social inclusion.
Open Government – unleashing the economic power of big data, transforming health and education services, and delivering information how people want it; and
Digital Services – faster more efficient digital services, delivered to citizens as they live, work, learn and play, improving efficiency and creating a digital government.
The ACT Government has already delivered significant benefits for Canberrans in these areas.
We have completed the rollout of the wireless networks to all ACT Government high schools and colleges – the first jurisdiction in Australia to do so. Through the installation of over 2,000 transmitters students can access their school learning materials, assignments, email and calendar wherever they are in school.
This Wi-Fi network combined with the ‘Schools Digital Backpack’ provides an Australia-leading platform that will enable ACT schools to take advantage of a new generation of digital education technologies that are emerging, especially relevant to the learning of languages, mathematics and science.
I strongly support using digital technology to improve government services, and Access Canberra is leading the way.
Since the creation of Access Canberra last year we have made substantial progress in delivering better and more convenient services by increasing the provision of digital services.
For the first time you can now renew a variety of licences online. Canberrans can nominate to receive rates and land tax notices electronically, make stamp duty payments, and even book and pay for ACTION charter buses online.
Access Canberra has also begun consolidating several hundred webpages of information to make government information simple, intuitive and accessible. The days of complicated and inaccessible consumer information are on the way out.
While Canberra is the most technologically aware and digitally connected city in Australia, it remains important that access to these technologies and the internet are widely and equitably available.
The CBRfree Wi-Fi network, being built in partnership with iiNet, will be one of the largest high quality, free public networks in Australia. To give you a sense of what it provides, the service will deliver 250 megabytes per user per day, which equates to around an hour of video content, or 50 photographs at 5 megabytes each, or 50 songs at 5 megabytes each.
Obviously, these are numbers which vary depending on the size and quality of the data being downloaded, but 250 megabytes per user per day – which is 7.5 gigabytes per month - is an exceptionally large bandwidth allocation being made freely available to all users of CBRfree Wi-Fi.
Already CBRfree is available in Canberra City and will be in Dickson, Belconnen and Manuka by November this year. By the end of June 2016, the build of the CBRfree will be complete and available in all Canberra’s major town-centres.
During the development of the Action Plan, the community expressed a desire for the development of a digital smart parking service that would provide real time information through smart phone apps to guide drivers to available parking spaces.
As a result we have committed to a 12 month trial of Smart Parking technologies. To ensure the best technological outcome, we have engaged NICTA as a Strategic Advisor for the trial of Smart Parking.
I am pleased to announce that the Smart Parking trial will be in Manuka, and we aim to commence it early next year. This provides an ideal mix of on and off street parking as well as paid and time limited parking. The intent is to maximise the effective use of parking space in Manuka through the use of technology for the benefit of those arriving by car, the local community and local business.
This is a practical, easy-to-adopt system that will make everyone’s lives easier as they navigate to find a car park in one of our busiest shopping areas. It will also increase the number of people willing and able to access businesses, which will directly lead to higher trading turnover.
We will consult closely with the Manuka community including residents and local traders as we settle the parameters for the pilot, to ensure the community is engaged and supportive.
High speed broadband and digital connectedness is important for us as individuals – but it is even more important for our goal of diversifying Canberra’s economy by growing 21st Century industries.
In Confident & Business Ready: Building on Our Strengths we recognised that the uptake of digital technology was one of the key drivers of innovation and entrepreneurship, and that the economic development objectives of the Digital Canberra Action Plan would form an important part of our approach to innovation and entrepreneurship.
One of the ACT Government’s most important relationships to support digital transformation of our economy is with NICTA.
NICTA is making a strong contribution to Canberra’s innovation ecosystem by generating start-ups, managing the e-Government Cluster and as a foundation member of the CBR Innovation Network.
NICTA is working closely with the Australian Government’s Digital Transformation Office on several national projects, and the ACT’s Chief Digital Officer is in discussion with the DTO and NICTA on ways in which the ACT Government can be a test-bed for DTO applications. Already this is raising Canberra’s profile and credentials among multinational businesses to place more strategic research in Canberra, and this opens opportunities for smart Canberra IT businesses and start-ups.
Our focus on maximising use of digital technology is already reaping benefits.
Earlier this month the Commonwealth Government’s Office of the Chief Economist released the Australian Geography of Innovation and Entrepreneurship report.
The report found ‘that on a population-adjusted basis the ACT is the highest performing of all Australia’s States and Territories on both innovation and entrepreneurship’.
I was particularly pleased with the data on new business entries – at 245 new businesses per 10,000 population, we are far ahead of the second placed Greater Melbourne with 149 business entries per 10,000 of population.
This is a great endorsement of our strategy – people in Canberra are willing to take the first step towards establishing their own business at a rate far higher than the rest of the nation. As a government, we need to give them the tools to succeed in a global marketplace.
Our strategy also committed us to working with the higher education and research sector to grow a number of capability areas with one common feature: the need to manage, interrogate and transfer large data sets. This ability will underpin the new industries of the knowledge economy.
In fact, software engineering to manipulate and interrogate data will be the advanced manufacturing industry of this century.
This use of data holds big opportunities for Canberra.
For example, the Space Innovation Cluster brings together the strengths of ANU and UNSW Canberra. The space industry is much more than rockets, Apollo missions and astronauts. It includes the provision of data and services that we take for granted: mobile phones, GPS services, weather reports, environmental monitoring, surveying, aviation and security to name just a few. In 2013 the global space industry was estimated to be worth US$314 billion.
Of particular interest is geospatial data. Over the last 30 years Geoscience Australia has acquired over 240,000 images of the Australian continent taken by NASA’s LANDSAT satellites. These 240,000+ images represent approximately 1 petabyte (one million gigabytes) of data.
However, much of this data remained unused because traditional technology could not make use of this dataset.
Geoscience Australia, in partnership with the National Computational Infrastructure at ANU and CSIRO amongst others, has now released this data through the Australian Geoscience Data Cube. This imagery covering 30 years of change in Australia’s environment is now available at a resolution of 25 square metres.
It is the first time that an entire continent’s geophysical data has been made available to researchers. And all this is occurring in Canberra.
Geoscience Australia, CSIRO, and ANU are considering innovative ways for commercial companies to build products and services off data cube technologies. Together with Airbus Defence and Space, they are currently considering the technical challenges for combining commercial data with public good data as part of the ACT Multi-resolution Data Cube Demonstrator project.
But to achieve commercial outcomes, interested commercial partners need quick access to the data. While universities and multinational companies may be able to purchase high speed internet at a significant cost, smaller companies are reliant on the existing broadband infrastructure and, therefore, the rollout of the NBN.
Simply, any changes to the NBN’s will affect Australia’s ability to grow these types of knowledge based industries.
While the ACT Government has been doing its bit to help our citizens and businesses transition to the new digital age, the Federal Government needs to snap out of its state of digital hesitation.
The NBN rollout is absolutely critical. Australia’s position, at around 40th in the world for broadband quality and speed, is something we should all be concerned about. After two years of delays and policy reviews – and now cost blow-outs - the Federal Coalition’s Election promise of a fast, affordable and available NBN feels further away than ever.
I am writing to the new Communications Minister, the Hon Mitch Fifield, to urge him to reinvigorate the rollout and capacity of the NBN. This is not simply a convenience or luxury – Canberra’s and Australia’s health services, education, productivity and competitiveness all hinge on the successful rollout and use of the NBN.
High speed broadband is the infrastructure of the 21st Century, just as roads were the infrastructure of the 20th Century. I hope that Prime Minister Turnbull is a 21st Century infrastructure prime minister and puts high speed, high quality broadband back on the Government’s agenda.
The ACT is ready and willing to make use of the NBN to its full capacity, to strengthen both our city, and the nation.