Innovation and advances in technology are not just things that are happening ‘to’ regional Australia and great ideas aren’t limited to big cities.
The increasing availability of high-speed internet access through fixed broadband, mobile and satellite technologies is building a bridge that regional communities can use to access knowledge, markets and services that may have previously been out of reach.
Even more importantly, greater connectivity enables greater innovation. Fostering this innovation is key for the future generations who will live and work in regional Australia.
Governments and employers need to find new ways to motivate people to move to and stay in regional areas, and support the roll out of new and innovative technologies to make sure communities can make the most of the future.
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The economic benefits and opportunities that come from greater connectivity arrive at a time when Australian exporters are poised to benefit from growing demand and new free trade agreements.
Australia has increasingly deep and broad connections to markets not limited to agriculture: they bring opportunities for the resource and service industries to operate on a global scale, for tourism to reach more potential visitors, and for educational institutions to connect with students from around the world who would like to study in Australia.
Advanced technologies like precision agriculture are already offering improvements to efficiency and profitability in many areas. 3D printing will shorten supply chains by allowing a huge range of items to be manufactured on-site whenever they are needed – allowing for rapid prototyping and development and slashing the costs of replacing parts and equipment.
Access to services
Australia’s regional communities tend to have an older population than metropolitan areas and the trend of young people moving out of regional communities will require governments and employers to find new ways to motivate people to move to and stay in regional areas.
Encouraging migration to regional areas can help rebalance demographics. According to the Regional Australia Institute, if managed carefully “international migration is increasingly fundamental to regional development in Australia. International migration has the ability to ‘offset’ population decline in some regional areas.”
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Health and Education are two services where regional communities will benefit. Technology such as telemedicine can improve access to healthcare and deliver greater equality in services, provided there is sufficient connectivity available.
Opportunities for both students and teachers to change how and where education is delivered are already being embraced. These advances will continue to bring regional communities better access to resources, wider choice of educational opportunities and more reliable connections to friends, communities of interest and potential employers.
Weather and disaster management
Better coordination of emergency services and relief efforts, remote monitoring of disasters zones and fire fronts, and an enhanced ability to predict weather patterns are all examples of improvements in technology that may help communities deal with these changing conditions.
Changes in the environment will continue to spur adaptation in agriculture. Water scarcity will drive the need for a huge improvement in water management and efficiency, for example through the utilisation of less water-intensive crops and the adoption of greater ‘on-farm’ technology to make the best possible use of this scarce resource.
With a robust communications infrastructure in place and an increasing number of connected devices, a growing use of decentralised and renewable energy may also lead to new opportunities for communities to control their own energy
Local councils and governments are turning to technology to find smarter ways of managing public spaces by disrupting tradition. IoT powered public spaces like parks and city centres will not only create brilliant amenities for citizens – they’ll also create new cost reductions, workplace efficiencies and smarter ways for local governments. Telstra’s IoT Platform can manage bins in real-time, which means councils will only need to deploy services when they’re needed. Sensors and the IoT Platform can be used to provide real-time data to aid how a council uses everything from street lighting to smart parking to asset management.