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Fast broadband transforming towns into tech hubs

Our ever-changing digital landscape, combined with the breakdown of traditional industries is facilitating innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship in regional Australia.

Many parts of regional Australia have suffered as a result of the end of the mining boom and decline of local manufacturing.

Towns which once thrived in these prosperous industries are experiencing the 'brain drain' – unable to attract and retain skilled workers as employment opportunities diminish and businesses that once defined these areas disappear.

These communities have been served a challenge - how do they reinvent and reinvigorate themselves in order to stay relevant, competitive and attractive in this changing environment?

Fortunately, local Australian small businesses are tackling this challenge head-on.

Ben Salmon, Executive General Manager, Business, nbn

The Illawarra region on the South Coast of New South Wales is a good example - once known as a hub of heavy industry with coal and steel dominating the region’s employment sector.

The area has undergone a major shift in its economic landscape, diversifying towards a serviced-based economy where knowledge and information are crucial in driving business growth and productivity.

What’s happening in places like Illawarra is indicative of the transformation taking place across a number of regional Australian towns.

Our ever-changing digital landscape, combined with the breakdown of traditional industries is facilitating innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship as vibrant businesses disrupt and challenge the status-quo.

Access to new technologies and fast broadband is helping to drive a movement of ‘Silicon Suburbs’ in regional Australia led by bold entrepreneurs.

We’ve already begun to see the benefits of access to the nbn™ network in regional Australia as the expanding footprint now reaches more than quarter of the rollout and is scheduled to be completed within the next few years.

Gone are the days when a graduate needs to flee their home town to Sydney, Melbourne, New York or Tokyo to start their business venture.  

I’ve seen firsthand in places like Ipswich in Queensland, how the tech start-up explosion has replaced what was once a coal-mining cradle, while in the regional Victorian town Ballarat, young software entrepreneurs have struck gold by taking the chance on a new business idea from their hometown. 

Founders of Ballarat-based software developing company Retsim. Read their story here.

And this transformation isn’t just for the tech geeks or digital natives.

We are seeing traditional family owned businesses revolutionise the way they work as the ability to HD video conference all parts of the world is opening up new market opportunities.

Take Noel, a fish farmer running out of Wagga Wagga who doubled his exportation due to better access and communication with his Chinese suppliers after getting connected to the nbn™ network less than two years ago.

This business has been running for over a decade and needed to adjust to the digital era in order to grow and Noel now owns one of the most successful fisheries in the country.

Noel Penfold from Wagga Wagga. Read his story here.

We’re also increasingly seeing businesses improve their productivity by going completely ‘virtual’ as files, administration, emails, communication and accounting are digitally recorded and accessible anytime, anywhere in the cloud.

These applications and the growing ability to drive sales by offering e-commerce services is predicted to see a $4 billion boost to our Gross Domestic Product each year according to a recent study by the University of Melbourne.

For example, a local café owner just outside of Brisbane put a crucial two hours back in his day by no longer waiting to load his business admin and backups to the cloud.

These small but important time savings are helping small businesses to increase their trade, reduce their bottom line and importantly spend more valuable hours with family and loved ones. 

Job growth, innovation and opportunity are no longer restricted to businesses within the major cities.

Universal access to fast broadband will allow small and medium businesses to enjoy similar access to their big city counterparts, providing the opportunity to innovate and prosper. 

New industries are growing in unexpected places, benefiting the Australian economy and the people that live and work in the regions.

With the rollout of the nbn™ network set to be complete by the year 2020, a digital future is imminent – businesses and towns across Australia are set to thrive if they choose to accept the challenge. 

Special feature: Everything Australia's small businesses need to know about the nbn™ network

Last updated on 20 May 2016

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