In 2011, the city of Ipswich published a 20-year economic development plan. It forecast the addition of 292,000 new residents, who will require an additional 120,000 jobs, and will live in a network of distinct communities interwoven with centers of employment, recreational facilities and green space. The plan responded to future challenges but also to past ones. Because Ipswich offered affordable housing and an attractive lifestyle, its population was growing rapidly in the booming economy of 21st Century Australia. Yet the decline of industrial employment in the 70s and 80s had left the city with legacy of long-term unemployment and bred unacceptable levels of crime and social dislocation.
Carrying out the plan, Ipswich was quick to seize multiple opportunities. The Australian government’s National Broadband Network, announced in 2009, opened the possibility of attracting significant investment into the region. Ipswich City Council partnered with surrounding city and regional councils to build a case for NBN rollout of what it termed the Western Corridor National Broadband Network. The governments mapped current and proposed broadband infrastructure, developed joint policies and solicited support from business and industry groups. Their work was rewarded in 2010, when NBN announced that two locations in the region would receive the first deployments of fiber to the premise.
A similar strategy has driven 3G and 4G mobile deployment. Governments combined to conduct independent testing of availability throughout the region, which sent testing vehicles across more than 2,300 kilometers of roads. The effort paid off by letting governments bring objective data to their negotiations with carriers about where towers should go to provide the broadest possible coverage. But Ipswich has been as ready to partner with the private sector as to pressure it. Acting as intermediary, Ipswich has coordinated between property developers and NBN to direct NBN investment in conduit to areas where property developers or the city are launching construction, which saves all parties time and money.
From Digital Hub to Digital Enterprise
Infrastructure, however, is only the start. To encourage adoption, Ipswich has introduced a wide range of courses for citizens on digital applications and built a Digital Hub demonstration center where citizens and businesspeople can experience the most advanced technologies. Training has reached more than 2,000 people, many of whom in turn become technology trainers for community groups. A Digital Enterprise Program has offered training seminars to hundreds of employees from small-to-midsize businesses and nonprofits.
Ipswich has just commenced a major redevelopment of its city center, where digital technologies will be used to attract commercial and residential tenants and to improve public safety through video monitoring, license plate and facial recognition software. Green standards will make the city center one of the most sustainable in Australia. When it is completed in 2031, it will mark the emergence of one of the nation’s model cities.
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