Like much of the nation, the state of South Australia has long depended on a mix of mining, agriculture and heavy manufacturing to sustain its economy. Today, all three are stagnant or declining in terms of job creation, due to slowing resource exports and the slow collapse of the Australian automobile industry. These global economy trends have put pressure on a group of small cities to the east of Adelaide, with its 1.3 million people.
Building Social Capital and Opportunity
Led by the city of Prospect (a 2013 Smart21), they have joined together in the Eastern Region Alliance (ERA) to pursue the development of knowledge-based economies on a foundation of advanced broadband. The goals of ERA are to build social capital, achieve equality of opportunity, reduce poverty and accelerate economic growth. Though each of its member cities is different, they all see opportunity in cultural, creative and recreational services as well as the accommodation and food industries that accompany them. They also see substantial growth prospects in home-based workers, already an important sector, who can avoid commuting into Adelaide. The 40% of the workforce with university qualifications is projected to reach 45% by 2031.
Like other Australian communities, ERA’s broadband destiny is partly tied to the National Broadband Network. Prospect has shown its partner cities how to get the attention of NBN by developing a comprehensive digital strategy. Prospect’s first Digital Economy Strategy was key to it success in being named as the first fiber-to-the-premise deployment site in metro Adelaide. The neighboring cities of Tea Tree Gully and Walkerville will benefit as well. To generate demand, ERA cities have built Digital Hubs as community technology demonstration centers, expanded computer access in libraries and conducted hundreds of training sessions for citizens and business owners in digital skills. Many of the trainees also serve as digital champions who carry the message of ICT to friends and colleagues.
Finding Prosperity in Disruption
Much of the training targets specific economic sectors: digital entrepreneurship for the small office/home office sector, digital enterprise for artists, tele-health and tele-education. Wherever possible, they mix education with networking among like-minded businesses that uncovers new growth opportunities. The governments themselves have been eager to exploit ICT: Prospect and Tea Tree Gulley have pioneered the use of videoconferencing and online reporting for Council meetings, consultations and workshops, while Prospect and Unley are piloting LED-based smart street lighting based on connections that Prospect officials made at the ICF Summit of 2012. Seeking new sources of prosperity in an era of disruptive change, Prospect and the cities of the ERA are models of collaboration in the digital economy.
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Prospect was featured in the Intelligent Community Forum book Brain Gain.
Population (Prospect): 22,000
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