Future directions - By Simon Kuttner, Media & Communications Officer – Longreach Regional Council
Our Council, in conjunction with five other councils, has recently embarked on a project to replace our Business Enterprise System software in a joint initiative labelled BESPOC – Business Enterprise System Procurement for Outback Councils.
The selection of the most appropriate software was an exhaustive process involving staff from virtually every area of each of the five councils. The positive collaboration between different departments was critical in building a holistic appraisal of each software solution. As the only dedicated Media & Communications Officer among the five outback councils involved I found the evaluation process an interesting one and it got me thinking about soft-skills in the age of technology.
Increasing numbers of rural and remote local governments are seeking improved outcomes through the implementation of advanced ICT solutions. Where in the past the availability of technology has been a limitation, there is now much less of a digital divide between the city and the outback.
It is tempting, then, for outback councils to go for technology in a big way as it becomes more accessible. Nonetheless how many small councils really appreciate the resources and skills required to make their tech project people friendly – particularly in the diverse communities of rural and remote Australia?
The more advanced our technology becomes the greater the need is to ground the user experience by applying non-tech skills in its design and implementation. The trap for rural and remote local governments occurs when they adopt technology for the sake of being an adopter – without really understanding what the outcomes will be or how they are delivered.
As small rural and remote local governments become more connected to the information economy many will consider expanding their ICT departments; some may even be appointing ICT officers for the first time. Of equal importance is consideration of how the organisation communicates to its customers – both internal and external – particularly as new capacity opens up through the use of technology.
One of the biggest trends now and into the future is the one away from traditional media. In small and remote communities where there is no permanent media presence, effective management of ICT allows councils to become their own media outlet. There are some fantastic solutions available but the focus should be on facilitating considered and meaningful outcomes from their implementation.
It is through collaboration between both ICT and other professionals that future technology can most effectively enrich communities.
There is a big difference between communications as referred to in an ICT context and communications as referred to in a corporate and commercial context – however the two are not mutually exclusive. It is my view that in this day and age each is becoming increasingly essential to the other.