Future directions in business efficiency – the impact of NBN

Kiama Municipal Council is in the fortunate position of being the first Council on mainland Australia to be connected to the National Broadband Network (NBN), with rollout to the majority of the Municipality expected by the end of 2012.

Mayor Sandra McCarthy said the rollout of the NBN presented Local Governments with many challenges and many rewards.

She is keen to impart the Kiama's NBN experience to other areas receiving future rollout, and those keen to be NBN ready, so they are prepared for the demands created by the project.

The rollout of the NBN presents Local Governments with an opportunity to look at public infrastructure uses and the needs of the community in a new way.

The project is a major change in the way councils communicate with the Federal Government and transcends traditional boundaries and borders for a truly regional response.

Sandra McCarthy said it is important for councils and communities to recognise the investment of the Federal Government in public infrastructure and telecommunications in regional Australia through the NBN.

She said the rollout had offered Kiama Council a wonderful opportunity, after being selected in the pilot project, and there are many challenges and lessons that accompanied the process.

She highlighted the importance of Federal and Local Governments working together to ensure the success of the project locally and nationally.

"The NBN breaks down the traditional barriers of local government areas and borders in Australia for the benefit of all Australians, particularly those in remote and rural areas." she said.

When it was announced that Kiama Downs / Minnamurra was to receive the rollout, Council had to draw on all its resources to assist the physical rollout and then begin community planning to maximise its potential.

Sandra McCarthy said this project has offered Council a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate real leadership.

"Rather than just talk about it, we are working together, to develop replicable and scalable programs of benefit to regional Australia." she said.

Therefore the first step of the project was close engagement with NBN Co to assist with engineering and mapping information required for the rollout.

"All departments in Kiama Council from our GIS and Engineering team to our IT dept have been working to assist NBN Co with any information required for a successful rollout," she said.

It soon became apparent that the second step of the project required an organisational response to coordinate information and lobby for strategic rollout in the area.

"While the NBN fibre provides the connection, it is Kiama Council's strategic planning that plays a critical role in maximising the potential of this vital telecommunications infrastructure", she said.

The third step of Council's response was the development of strategic and coordinated community planning. This included:

  • the development of a Broadband Strategy to map community planning for the NBN
  • adoption of the Strategy by Council
  • reation of an Internal NBN Committee of Council staff to ensure that all areas across council who are involved in NBN planning meet every two weeks to update one another
  • creation of a Community NBN Committee which invited community members interested in becoming champions of the technology to meet together and become involved in strategic planning
  • establishing teams of staff to assist with grant applications to apply for Federal Govt funding to revitalise community spaces as digital access points for learning and innovation
  • formation of regional and national partnerships with the University of Wollongong and CSIRO to fast-track planning and benefit from the wisdom of some of the nation's leading minds.

These plans were also complemented by a fourth step, which was a new focus on strong community and media engagement to ensure Kiama Council is proactive and positive about the opportunities offered by the rollout of the NBN.

The first release sites of Minnamurra/Kiama Downs had one of the highest take up rates in the country and Kiama Council's coordinated approach enabled the strategic lobbying for rollout of the NBN to the Administration Centre, then to the adjacent area of Kiama/Jamberoo.

The lobbying was successful, and the council continues to lobby for the remainder of the Municipality in Gerringong/Gerroa.

Once Kiama Council's Administration Centre was connected to the NBN there were instant benefits both for Council's business operations and for the success of community planning already underway.

Kiama Mayor Sandra McCarthy announced that the NBN connection to the administration was activated on 3 November 2011, making it the first Council on mainland Australia to be connected.

Sandra McCarthy said the much anticipated NBN link went live without a hitch and Council is enjoying incredibly fast download and upload speeds, a dramatic improvement in the reliability of the service and significant cost savings for business operations.

Kiama Council has four live NBN ports to support the needs of the Manning Street administration building.

The NBN connections into the building will enable Council to assist future network demands from mobile users and public internet users who access council services online.

The NBN connection to Kiama Council supports:

  • a stable and resilient network that delivers quality video, voice and data to all users of the network (local & remote) without latency or poor performance issues
  • a secure and protected network that meets industry standards and would satisfy an independent security audit
  • expansion of voice and data systems and solutions to remote sites
  • a disaster recovery solution for both voice and data systems.

Sandra McCarthy said the NBN will have a significant influence on the way that many Kiama Council staff currently operate.

"It enables IT solutions that utilise cloud technology for storage, devices such as tablets and smart phones which will allow staff out on inspections or working from remote locations to send updates and requests while out on inspections," she said.

Successful lobbying for rollout in Kiama/Jamberoo means Kiama Council can look forward to NBN connection of remote sites at the Minnamurra Waste Depot, Belvedere Street Stores Depot, Blue Haven Retirement Village, Holiday Parks, Youth Cottage and Community Centre in Hindmarsh Park to provide ubiquitous, reliable coverage for optimum business operations.

Kiama Council also assisted with lobbying for rollout of the NBN to Wollongong and have offered assistance with the development of a regional Broadband Strategy to maximise uptake and innovation.

The fifth step, which is the key to the success of Kiama Council's plans for community uptake and engagement, is the creation of spaces for learning and innovation to ensure that we have programs and applications which support and benefit our community.

Sandra McCarthy said "we are currently working with community and businesses to create physical and digital spaces for community learning and planning around the NBN.

Over the next few months our area will undergo great change in the way we communicate, transact, live and learn because of the NBN."

Key to these plans is the creation of a digital hub at the Kiama Library and an NBN expo scheduled for February next year.

'I would like to welcome everyone to come to Kiama to see the development of this project and also attend Council's Expo to be part of this exciting story for regional Australia."

An interview with Sandra McCarthy, Mayor of Kiama Municipal Council, New South Wales and President of the Australian Healthy Cities Chapter, Chair of the Southern Councils Group.