It’s about People
The digital economy is more than pipes in the ground. There is no doubt that the infrastructure is an important enabler, however the digital economy is really about people being enabled to work together more effectively. It’s about companies bringing their products and services to the world. It’s about young and old receiving the health care they need no matter where in the country they live. It’s about our children being able to access world class education ensuring they have a positive and productive future and can fulfil their potential.
In our approach, we view high speed broadband not as an end in itself, but simply as a medium that will allow the region to better build on and promote its existing strengths and capabilities. As Dr Tim Williams explains, “We don’t talk about an electricity economy”(see the Connecting Communities paper at http://www.huawei.com.au/connectingcommunities). Electricity is simply an enabler we take for granted. The digital economy and high speed broadband should be viewed in the same light
We acknowledge the overall national digital economy strategy and have replicated the structure of the national strategy in our regional digital strategy. We have addressed the eight goals of the national strategy within this strategy (available at http://www.nbn.gov.au/the-vision/digitaleconomystrategy/). This digital strategy also provides a supporting role to the broader RDA Far West NSW Regional Plan 2011-2021 (see relevant excerpts in Appendix).
The framework we use is a simple Now-Where-How approach in relation to each goal:
- Now: What is the current state in the region now
- Where: What is the future vision for the organisation
- How: What actions must be taken in the coming months and years
This strategy recognises that, as with any new technologies, it is difficult (if not impossible) to understand what the overall impact of the NBN will be. Also, such is the extremely poor internet service we currently receive in the region that any digital economy strategy is heavily dependent on the rollout of the NBN in the region. The region is hopeful of being among the list of rollout sites to be announced early in the project(The NBN rollout program can be found at http://www.nbn.gov.au/about-the-nbn/follow-the-rollout/). However, it is also possible that the region will have to wait up to nine years to get the NBN. During this time, the nature of the rollout may change as new technologies become available, government priorities change, and as governments themselves change. As such, this strategy needs to remain flexible so as to adapt as new opportunities or limitations arise.
To cater for the variables, we are adopting an emergent strategy approach to the digital economy:
“Emergent Strategy is the vision towards strategy formation that emphasises the benefits of letting the strategy emerge as things gradually become apparent. Try before you commit. Strategy is viewed as an ongoing process of constant learning, experimentation and risk-taking. It is an adaptive, incremental and complex learning process in which the ends and means are intertwined and often specified simultaneously”.(Read about emergent strategy at http://www.wiwi.europa-uni.de/de/lehrstuhl/mm/ufo/lehre/kursuebersicht/StO/Mintzberg_1985.pdf.)
The Cluster Effect
The Far West NSW region has some core strengths and capabilities which ought to be developed and used for competitive advantage in the future. Our approach is to focus on how we can develop clusters of people and organisations around some of our core areas of expertise. The cluster development concept of economic development has been advocated by Michael Porter and others since the late 1990’s and can be explained as follows:
“Clusters are geographic concentrations of interconnected companies, specialised suppliers, service providers, and associated institutions in a particular field that are present in a region. Clusters arise because they increase the productivity with which companies can compete. The development and upgrading of clusters is an important agenda for governments, companies, and other institutions.”(see more at http://www.isc.hbs.edu/econ-clusters.htm)
We acknowledge that in recent years there has been much criticism of this approach and there are reports that recommend that regions should focus on global connectedness and collaboration over regional expertisesee more at http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/on-innovations/industry-clusters-the-modern-day-snake-oil/2011/06/19/gIQAMtx3EI_story.html.). There is also the middle ground that is an approach recognised by technology leaders such as Cisco. In 2010, Cisco published a paper called “Next Generation Clusters: Creating Innovation Hubs to Boost Economic Growth “. They argue that with high speed broadband you can have regional clusters that are globally connected.
The digital economy provides the opportunity to have regional clusters in the most remote areas that are inter-connected to the wider world. This is the thinking we have adopted with the Far West NSW and Broken Hill Digital Economy Strategy. Silicon Valley in California is perhaps the best known example. A key part of the success of Silicon Valley is its connectedness to the global world.
We will maintain and develop core skills and expertise within our region but also be open enough to learn from, collaborate, and share our expertise with the wider world.
Finally, in presenting this strategy, we feel it is important to show our community and the broader world that we are already embracing the digital economy; we are an innovative and creative community; and we can go along way with limited resources.
We have developed a digital economy strategy that is digital and web-based. It is built on free WordPress blogging software. We have used a $200 digital camera to record our interviews with the community. We have uploaded the interviews on YouTube and embedded them into the strategy itself. These videos illustrate that the ideas in this strategy are those of a broad section of the community.We encourage you, as an important member of our community, to participate and share your thoughts. You can comment on each page on the website using the comments feature. If you have additional ideas, videos or other useful information for our region’s strategy, then please feel welcome to send this to us. If the people of Iceland and Egypt can crowdsource their respective constitutions, we can collaborate on ideas for our digital economy. (To read more visit http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jun/09/iceland-crowdsourcing-constitution-facebook and http://spot.us/pitches/986-the-cloud-in-egypt-help-or-hype/updates/1072-constitutional-crowdsourcing-site-launched).