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The Switch: how an old town became future town

One of the fastest growing cities in Queensland sees the National Broadband Network as a force for bringing people closer together as a community

If you were asked to name the smartest cities in the world, Ipswich probably wouldn’t be among the first to slip off your tongue.

Yet Queensland’s oldest provincial city, just 40 minutes from Brisbane, has been named by a New York think-tank, the Intelligent Community Forum, as one of the world’s Top 7 Intelligent Communities.

Along with cities in the USA, Canada, Taiwan, and Brazil, Ipswich was described as “‘revolutionary’ in its own way”.

The Forum said that each of the seven cities “has planned its future in a way that is consistent with its cultural identity, while using universally available digital tools and broadband technology … [transforming] themselves from ‘smart’ to ‘intelligent,’ which is how real sustainable growth and investment will arrive".

Ipswich is now in the running to be named the world leader when the ICF announces the world’s 2015 Intelligent Community of the Year in Toronto on June 15.

The City of Ipswich’s mayor Paul Pisasale, who nicknamed his city “The Switch”, says “we did it as a community”.

The switch to a technology focus began two decades ago with the closure of coal mines, he says.

“We knew what was ahead and we knew that the 90 per cent of new jobs were in IT. Now, the arrival of the National Broadband Network and fast internet connections opens up a whole raft of new opportunities.

“The NBN is not just about downloading fast or doing all the trivial things. That’s not what the NBN’s about. It’s about making sure your business improves and your family life improves. It’s about making our lives better, about making our community closer and more connected.”

To train people in how to make the most of fast internet speeds, the city opened a Digital Hub centre and launched a Digital Enterprise Program to run seminars for employees and small-to-mid sized businesses.

He said e-health and e-education initiatives were now emerging and the training continues through the local library service.

The Council is also staging the inaugural Ipswich Region Digital Expo on May 28 to promote digital technology knowledge, including how homes and businesses can benefit from fast broadband.

With the city centre undergoing a major redevelopment over the next 15 years, the focus is on maximising technology and sustainable green energy options for residents and businesses, and improving public safety through video monitoring, facial recognition and licence plate software.

Ipswich’s Safe City program, in which 250 CCTV cameras around the city are linked by fibre optic cable and wi-fi to a central monitoring room, celebrated its 20th anniversary last October.

At the time, Councillor Pisasale reported: “The facts speak for themselves with a consistent reduction in incidents of crime by 70 per cent. The cameras are credited with delivering a 49 per cent reduction in drug, alcohol and related substance abuse in Ipswich Central.”

The NBN, says the council, will make the rollout of more cameras during the city redevelopment easier.

The mayor says internet speed is one of the key tools to making his city great, both at home and at work.

“The future’s not some place we’re going, it’s one we’re creating,” he says. “I tell the school kids the jobs they’ll be doing haven’t been created yet.”


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