Burnie: the Online City of the Future

Burnie City Council is continuing to foster opportunities for growth and new job creation in the area of information technology and communications.

With a population of 20,000 but servicing a region of 75,000 residents, Burnie City Council and the community worked together to identify and develop areas for growth. Offering an excellent lifestyle and good business opportunities, Council looked for a competitive advantage that would attract new business to the City, as well as enhance opportunities for existing businesses.

With information technology and the telecommunications industry a rapidly expanding sector, the Burnie community is confident it can provide the necessary infrastructure and skills base to build its future on this area. Still proud of its industrial past, Council recognised it must now move on.

Therefore, it has fully embraced the concept, 'Burnie: the Online City of the Future'. Key initiatives already up and running include its Regional Small Business Incubator, development of state of the art communications infrastructure, a Community Online Access Centre and an E-Commerce Centre.

Business Incubator an IT boon

Officially opened in December last year, Burnie's Regional Small Business Incubator has certainly been a catalyst for generating exciting initiatives with huge potential for Burnie and the North West region.

The purpose of the Incubator is to provide a high tech workplace and a range of business support services, to assist new small business start ups through their initial establishment period - for possibly up to three years.

Following receipt of a $500,000 Federal Government development grant, Council approached the State Government successfully securing a redundant property in a high profile location close to the City centre. Council contributed a further $200,000 to set up the Incubator. It is also plans to develop a separate 'Cultural Arts' Incubator facility on the same site.

From the outset, Council has been firmly committed to the long term sustainability of the Incubator, particularly ensuring business tenants are provided with a suitable workplace and support services. This commitment included attracting value adding 'anchor tenants' with capabilities to assist other Business Incubator tenants.

Specifically, Council worked energetically to secure the following.

  • A modern 'Communications Infrastructure' (Paradox Digital)
  • 'Community On Line Access Centre' (Council)
  • A 'National Electronic Commerce Business Centre' (commerce@work &endash; formerly INTEC).

Communications infrastructure was addressed through discussions with various national telecommunications companies. Paradox Digital from Perth was ultimately selected to install the necessary infrastructure. This has resulted in major communication enhancements at the Business Incubator.

At the same time, other innovative changes are being progressed in the community in the form of an 'Integrated Communication Network' model. Council has identified sound potential for statewide and national use of this communications network model.

It has provided briefings to senior managers of 'Networking the Nation' (RTIF Board) in Canberra, and also to senior representatives of the Tasmanian Government. Attracting Paradox Digital to set up a Tasmanian node of their communication business in Burnie has greatly enhanced the capability and cost competitiveness of communications within the region.

Paradox Digital, as the first stage of a full 'Earth Station' development, has installed a satellite dish at the Business Incubator, delivering downlink data at the rate of 12 megabits per second. All tenants at the Business Incubator, including the On Line Access Centre, and the E-Commerce Centre, are presently using the new communications infrastructure.

Securing of the national e-commerce centre business was largely attributable to the availability of the efficient and cost competitiveness of the new communications infrastructure.

Extending the communications network

As well as benefiting the Regional Small Business Incubator, the On Line Access Centre, and the E-Commerce Centre, the advantages of the new communications infrastructure have extended to Council's own Wide Area Network (WAN). In addition, data communication services are also being provided to neighbouring Municipal Areas, including Waratah-Wynyard, Circular Head and the West Coast Councils.

"The efficiency and cost savings of utilising the new communications infrastructure, will be significant for the Councils and communities of North West Tasmania, both in terms of operational efficiency and direct cost savings," said Lionel Young, Manager Economic Development at Burnie City Council. "Council has also identified that the new communications infrastructure can be further utilised to establish an efficient 'Integrated Communications Network'.

"This will provide communication linkages to, and across, all community sectors, such as government, Council, business, industry, residential, and local organisations. "Importantly, this 'Integrated Communications Network' model offers the opportunity for 'real time', that is continuous uninterrupted e-commerce transactions for industry and business via the internet.

Due to the cost of connection and use of Telstra's frame relay network to Melbourne, Burnie City Council has investigated other cost effective options for a back channel link to the 'Integrated Communication Network' model. It has identified an alternate, new 'Digital Broadband Microwave Link' technology, as the most efficient and cost effective option.

This new Australian developed technology has been successfully trialled in Victoria. A submission seeking funding to advance this proposal is currently being determined by the 'Networking The Nation' (RTIF Board).

"As well as providing a back channel link to Melbourne, Council is confident this same technology can be utilised to link the proposed 'Integrated Communication Network' models across Tasmania," said Lionel Young. "This will provide a national first for Tasmania in establishing a fully 'Integrated Statewide Communications Network'.

"The efficiency and cost saving benefits of a Statewide fully 'Integrated Community Network' would be very significant for Tasmania. For example, in addition to service delivery and communications efficiency, 'local telephone calls' would extend Statewide, and access to the Melbourne 039 area would also have 'local call' status. Of additional importance, the local and statewide 'Integrated Communication Network' models as outlined, could have the same beneficial application throughout Australia."

For further information contact Lionel Young, on (03) 6430 5706 or email lyoung@burnie.net

Burnie.Com Authority

The Burnie City Council has announced the formation of a specialist Information Technology working group, to be known as the 'Burnie.Com Authority'. Formally established under the Local Government Act, this group is charged with identifying and handling all Information Technology and Telecommunication (IT&T) initiatives that have the potential to provide economic and employment benefit to the Burnie community.

The five member group comprises two members of Council, Alderman Tony Hainsworth and Alderman Brett Whiteley; a representative of Council's Economic Development Unit, Stan Kaine; Catherine Fernon, from the Regional Small Business Incubator; and Council's General Manager, Paul Arnold.

"The new Authority gives the Burnie region an excellent opportunity to build on the opportunities that have been created since the installation of the high speed Internet connection at the Regional Small Business Incubator," Alderman Hainsworth, Chairman of the group said. "The Burnie.Com Authority will provide a central point of focus for IT&T related business opportunities or issues.

"These initiatives have the potential to offer new business opportunities, an expansion of market boundaries for existing local business and industry, and importantly, cost savings and efficiencies in business practices."

Ald Hainsworth pointed to supportive comments made recently by the Leader of the Federal Opposition, Kim Beazley, when visiting the Incubator. Kim Beazley's comments reflect the widespread positive feedback that is being received by the Burnie City Council on its progressive approach to fostering and promoting IT&T related business in the Burnie area.

E-Council - A complete Local Government information system

Burnie City Council has worked with commerce@work (formerly INTEC), which operates from the E Commerce Centre located in the Incubator, to develop E-Council.

Through E-Council the management and dissemination of information that Councils currently do manually can be delivered electronically for internal customers and the public at large.

"All Councils provide a large amount of information ranging from planning matters to dogs, asset registers to a host of community services," said Lionel Young, Manager Economic Development at Burnie City Council. E-Council is a mechanism that provides ready access to this information within a built in hierarchy of security."

Using E-Council media representatives can immediately access Council Meeting Agenda and press releases without having to take up staff time. Similarly, the public can access information about planning matters and then lodge their applications electronically, providing a more efficient, streamlined process and, at the same time, freeing up staff time.

For further information contact Lionel Young, telephone (03) 6431 1033