Connectivity key to Gippsland business growth

Access to services over the nbn™ broadband access network is estimated to generate up to 960 new businesses in the Gippsland region by 2021.

The national rollout of the nbn™ broadband access network is playing a part in transforming towns around Australia by helping to provide access to fast broadband.

In the regional Victorian area of Gippsland, for example, the high concentration of technicians and trade workers indicates a strong position for leveraging digital technologies. As a result, new market opportunities are expected to open, reducing reliance on local industry.

Commissioned by NBN Co, the Regional Australia Institute (RAI) has compiled the Gippsland Business Growth Opportunities report. This uses research from AlphaBeta’s first national economic and social study of the impact of the nbn™ access network (also commissioned by NBN Co), with the report highlighting that the arrival of the network in Gippsland is expected to drive business innovation in the region.

A region in transition

Mount Oberon, Wilsons Promontory.

The Gippsland region features 700 kilometres of Victorian coastline and spans 41,600 square kilometres with more than 260,000 people calling it home. This picturesque part of the country provides rural and coastal living; it’s also home to Victoria’s High Country and snowfields.

The report notes that Gippsland features a diverse economy, including mining, tourism, agri-business and food production, advanced manufacturing, aviation, aged care and professional services, contributing $13.2 billion in Gross Regional Product to Victoria.

According to the report, the region is undergoing a period of change. Local residents have been impacted by the closures of the East Gippsland sawmill and the Hazelwood power station, along with the global shift to a low-carbon economy. The report also notes that, to thrive in the future, Gippsland must improve its skill levels and education outcomes.

Taking advantage of services over the nbn™ access network in the Gippsland region is expected to help support future objectives by enabling an even greater focus on business innovation and education, as well as tourism and small to medium-sized enterprises.

The report also acknowledges that fast broadband helps open up both new and larger markets for Gippsland’s existing industries, assisting locals to compete on a more level playing field. Thanks to better connectivity, educational institutions can employ the latest digital technologies, helping them engage and retain students, as well as offering resources equal to those available in major cities.

Connectivity for businesses

New fast broadband technologies have the potential to be ‘game changing’ for both business growth and performance in the Gippsland area. Opening up possibilities for innovation in the development of new products and services, the report also notes that these technologies can help improve efficiency and allow business owners to uncover new ways to reach, engage and stay connected with their customers.

And a proactive approach is critical. The report shares that it’s necessary for regional leaders, businesses, educators and the workforce to engage with digital technology in ways that build on existing strengths and capture new growth opportunities.

Jones Bay at Gippsland Lakes Reserve.

It’s also important to transition people to less ‘vulnerable’ jobs to reap the rewards of fast broadband, the report has found. Fortunately, Gippsland’s comparatively high rate of technical qualifications puts the area in a strong position for the reskilling and learning required to embrace and fully use digital technologies.

The percentage of owner-managers (17.6%) in Gippsland is higher than that of regional Victoria (16.6%), an indicator of entrepreneurship in the region. Gippsland’s strong performance in both business entries and knowledge-intensive business services indicates the presence of a skilled workforce and a significant level of innovation.

For this reason, it’s predicted that up to 960 new businesses will be created within the region by 2021 – and motivated business owners who act early will be best positioned for growth. They will also be better prepared for and insulated from new competitors outside the region.

Go-time for Gippsland

According to Jack Archer, RAI’s Chief Executive Officer, “Access to fast broadband encourages new and existing industries within the Gippsland region to become commercially competitive beyond the region and attractive to a professional workforce who desire advanced workplaces for career development.”

To take advantage of the opportunities provided by connectivity in Gippsland, RAI recommends following these three key steps.

The first is to get connected and tap into applications, such as cloud computing and video conferencing, to reach new markets and compete globally.

Next is to build the technological knowledge and skilled workforce needed to fuel business innovation in the form of new products and services, efficiency gains and new ways to connect with customers.

Last, but not least, is to apply the capabilities of digital technologies to enable workers to lift existing business performance, as well as increase the number of new ones.

Phillip Island.

Head of nbn™ local Victoria Ebony Aitken adds, “With the rollout of the nbn™ access network almost complete in Gippsland, the region is in a strong position to take advantage of a fully connected workforce to drive growth, reach new markets and increase efficiency. It’s encouraging to see positive early signs of growth as a result of connectivity with local businesses taking advantage of access to fast broadband to expand their market and increase productivity.”

Adds Archer, “Innovation and entrepreneurship, which can be pursued by embracing digital technology, will enable Gippsland to continue to offer the benefits of regional living and lifestyle with the attraction of globally competitive business options.”