How connectivity is helping revolutionise the arts

4-minute read
Just as the arts sector is crucial to the Australian economy, so too is connectivity to the future of the arts.

Australia’s creative arts industry plays a pivotal role in weaving together the fabric of our communities and national identity. Culture and arts are vital to who we are and define the essence of the human experience.

As well as being the cultural heart of our nation, the arts sector is crucial to the Australian economy.

The sector contributes nearly $112 billion to our Gross Domestic Product annually while employing 800,000 Australians*, and creates positive flows for other industries like tourism, healthcare and hospitality.

As well as being the cultural heart of our nation, the arts sector is crucial to the Australian economy.

Of course, the global experience of the COVID-19 pandemic has challenged the creative and broader cultural industries in ways never experienced before.

To stay afloat, artists have innovated and embraced technology to collaborate with others online, develop digital content and seek new opportunities, highlighting the ability of digital participation to help revolutionise the industry.

The importance of digital

While lower than in the early days of the pandemic, around 44 per cent of audience members continue to participate in online arts and cultural activities.

That’s according to research from the Audience Outlook Monitor, which also shares that one in 10 audience members are considered ‘digital devotees’ – with digital programming likely to keep playing a ‘substantial’ role in their lives.

At nbn, we not only embrace how art enriches lives but also recognise the important role digital tools, development and connectivity play in the success and vibrancy of the arts industry that supports it.

Innovative arts entrepreneurs are emerging and adopting digital platforms to reimagine their offerings. This process has been a rapid adjustment for many creators and cultural institutions in the face of big challenges.

Musicians performing on stage at the Athenaeum Theatre as part of the Melbourne Digital Concert Hall
Musicians performing on stage at the Athenaeum Theatre as part of the Melbourne Digital Concert Hall

Examples like the Melbourne Digital Concert Hall and Regional Arts Australia’s national events, Artlands and Junction, have been nothing short of inspiring.

These new hybrid digital and immersive cultural and creative experience models are leading the way in revolutionising the arts for both audience and creators. Finding and using digital innovations has helped organisations expand their audiences and collaborate with many in regional, remote and rural parts of the country.

Even when audiences return, continuing to use technology will help creators increase their reach.

The way forward

Capitalising on this opportunity and forging a path towards the post-pandemic recovery will need further development and innovation.

For some artists, this will mean unearthing new ways of sharing live performances on digital platforms, while for other cultural institutions, it will require rethinking how collections are shared in a collaborative and engaging way online.

For the arts to excel in the future, crucial steps creators will need to expand on include developing a strong digital presence, and acquiring appropriate hardware and other tools of the trade to digitise inspiration that allows for online participation.

Never has it been more important to support the arts industry in digital development.

For some artists, this will mean unearthing new ways of sharing live performances on digital platforms, while for other cultural institutions, it will require rethinking how collections are shared in a collaborative and engaging way online.

Both audience members and creators require affordable connectivity, digital capability and literacy skills – but the movement to digitisation does not come without its challenges.

Some audiences have solid digital participation and maturity while others are still struggling to realise the potential and find the sweet spot between art, technology and strong business models.

The industry and audience will need to ensure they are fully prepared to participate in this revolution.

Our focus

The nbn™ network is the digital backbone of the nation and, as an organisation, our purpose is to lift the digital capability of Australia.

As nbn’s National Head of Arts and Tourism, my role is to ensure that we deeply understand what the industry needs to further foster digital growth so it can reach broader audiences and maximise technological innovations online.

My role consults with artistic leaders and partners from national arts organisations, training institutes and peak industry bodies. Our shared goal is to lead a robust network of digital arts thought leaders, and nbn remains committed to delivering a high speed internet access network to all parts of the nation with a continued focus on regional, rural and remote areas.

To help assess and improve digital capability for individuals, nbn created the Online Skills Check and Resource tool, known as ‘OSCAR’.

An engaging and real-time online tool that can help sole traders and audience members improve their digital capability, this simple survey and resource library is a great starting point to baseline ability and upskill in a one-stop shop.

For larger arts organisations, the Department of Industries has released its Digital Readiness Assessment Tool to help identify what businesses are doing well and where they can improve when it comes to digital maturity.

Both tools help create a baseline of current digital capability and plan for the evolution of a digital strategy.

Innovating for the future

In addition, nbn also has a grants program for businesses, which is open until 30 November 2021.

The Innovate with nbn™ Grants Program for 2021 is currently open for applications and seeks innovative ideas to support turning them into digital realities. There’s a category for the arts, with the overall national winner eligible for $35,000.

Thought leaders will need to forge the way to support collaboration and knowledge sharing to futureproof digital growth.

Nathan Johnston, founder of DME3 and Disability Club, using laptop and smiling to camera
Nathan Johsnton, Arts category winner of the inaugural Innovate with nbn™ Grants Program.

Earlier this year, the Australia Council for the Arts released its Digital Culture Strategy and will guide the industry as we heal from the pandemic and take the next step in this revolution.

Although many challenges remain, the digital opportunity is exciting.

The arts are necessary for human expression and development. Creativity binds us to our past and present, and – together with digital innovation – the arts can help us reimagine our future.

Meet Nathan Johnston from Disability Club and DME3, the inaugural Innovate with nbn™ Grants Program winner in the Arts category.