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 the small city of Prospect to the east of Adelaide, with its 1.3 million people.
High-Speed Access with NBN
Across Australia, the National Broadband Network Company is rolling out the National Broadband Network (NBN), replacing the old copper wire broadband infrastructure with fiber-optic, fixed wireless and satellite infrastructure that boasts download speeds of up to 100 Mbps. The city of Prospect has partnered with the NBN Company since 2012 to make the transition as seamless as possible and to make certain that all its residents and business owners know about the game-changing network now available to them. To further this effort, the Prospect City Council has posted numerous news articles about making the switch to NBN to its websites. The local magazine and newspaper have also published NBN advertisements aimed at local businesses. The City Council and NBN have held several community sessions at Prospect’s Digital Hub, and an NBN liaison has presented at multiple business networking events in the city to explain the process of switching to NBN.
While educating its citizens about NBN, the city of Prospect has also set up two other broadband projects to bring high-speed NBN access to the general population. The Broadband Cafés project offers public, high-speed Wi-Fi in a variety of cafés throughout the city. These cafés show videos about the project to their customers, which have been very well received; one particular broadband café had has many as 17,000 views since the project began.
The city’s other broadband project is the Public Wi-Fi project, which is currently under construction. The project aims to set up specific geographic zones throughout the city to provide seamless, free high-speed Wi-Fi access to the public. All buildings within the zones will have access to NBN’s 100 Mbps capacity fiber and will use a radio-based mesh network of access points with no connectivity black spots.
Prospect's Digital Economy Strategy
The city of Prospect has worked closely with the federal government and NBN Co to educate and support local businesses as well as residents. Together, they have implemented the “Next Generation” Digital Economy Strategy, which outlines projects and initiatives to encourage outside investment and local business use of digital technology. The city completed stage one of the strategy in 2016, launching the new Network Prospect brand and website (www.networkprospect.com.au) at the annual Tourrific Prospect Street Party. The Network Prospect website serves as a one-stop shop, promoting local businesses, investment opportunities, and economic development initiatives for the whole region. Hundreds of Prospect businesses have signed up for the site’s business directory, creating a network of local businesses with increased visibility to the community and abroad.
To further support the Digital Economic Strategy, the city rolled out Prospect Fast Wi-Fi in 2017. Prospect Fast Wi-Fi is a free public Wi-Fi system with 12 access points and 3 backhaul radio stations that offers some of the fastest free Wi-Fi available in Australia over a 500m area along Prospect Road. Plans are already in place to expand the coverage with an additional 3 access points and one more backhaul radio station, which would provide full coverage to the area around the new cinema development. The city makes anonymous usage data available to local businesses as well to let them track local retail trends.
The Digital Economy Strategy also includes a busy schedule of bi-monthly events geared toward the professional services sector. The events aim to foster local business-to-business transactions, particularly for the many local businesses run from residents’ homes. In addition to networking opportunities, these events provide marketing education and guidance, including search engine optimization and social media training.
The Connected Cities project, proposed by the city of Prospect and the University of Adelaide in 2017 and funded in February 2018, aims to collect data on park usage and movements in Prospect to support future IoT infrastructure. Connected Cities will set up sensors in local parks and connect them to the LoRaWan network to monitor the use and maintenance of city council assets. The sensors will allow the council to understand what is happening in local parks and tailor maintenance to specific need rather than a fixed schedule. In addition, the information will assist the facilities booking system project in finding space and time availability.
Prospect has recently completed a pilot project with ConnectedParks, a local IoT startup to measure footfalls on its main street with sensor technology. Based on this success, Connected cities will also use sensors to track pedestrian movement on mainstreets in Magill and Port Adelaide to provide information to the council, main street committees and local businesses. This will allow businesses to adapt opening hours to foot traffic patterns.
A Collaborative Workspace
With the City Council’s support, a pair of Prospect entrepreneurs has set up a co-working space on Main Street called Little City Studio. Known locally as “a city within a city,” Little City Studio is a collaborative working space for residents who have outgrown their home offices or who want to build networks in a relaxed and affordable environment. Little City resident businesses have access to high-speed broadband, a boardroom, training events, and a Council-sponsored accelerator program.
Little City Studio has been so successful that the space is now full, and the City Council is currently considering plans for a new innovation center incorporating the Prospect Library, the Prospect Community and Civic Centres, and the Digital Hub and Gallery. The Digital Hub program was established in 2013 and funded initially by the Australian government to provide a community-centered technology hub at the Prospect Library. The hub offers a wide variety of free technology courses to residents, educating them in the opportunities provided by NBN broadband. As of August 2016, the Digital Hub has had over 7,300 registered customers.
These programs strengthen Prospect's appeal as a bedroom community for Adelaide while equipping its people and businesses for independent economic success in the digital economy.
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