Today we live, work, and play in a world of change and transition. Newcastle and the Hunter Region has in its history transitioned from being a coal driven economy, to a steel & manufacturing driven economy, back to resources and logistics, and tourism & culture. At the same time, the information and communication technologies and their digital distribution are transforming our economies and our social lives at a rapid pace.
The rapid pace of change is opening up opportunities for whole industries to be transformed, for individual businesses to completely change their competitive focus and for new products and services to emerge. This is happening around us and it is happening with our region. These opportunities need to be harnessed as a region to ensure our economy and our community is enhanced by staying collectively competitive with other regions and engaged with the global digital economy.
The future economic success of the Hunter Region relies on our collective ability to attract and retain a talented workforce, new business investment, a sustainable environment and a connected and inclusive community. It is about jobs, financial security, maintaining our spectacular quality of life, and our sense of community.
How can digital technologies make a better region? By providing business with opportunities. Providing businesses with education and capabilities to excel with the talent of their staff, opportunities to share and develop new ideas and innovations, opportunities to create and find uncontested market space and disrupt established industries in order to improve the social, economic, and environmental well being of our community.
The digital economy will drive new opportunities for business develop via new products and services, methods of supply and distribution, and access to larger markets. The digital economy will provide an improved society well-being by increased access and reduced inequity of access to vital health & education services and entertainment. It will improve our environmental sustainability by reducing the amount of fossil fuel driven travel via an increase in telework, smart public transport systems, and an increase in digital logistics.
Seizing the digital economy as a region means taking control of our future competitive direction. We can choose to play catch-up or to take a lead. The Hunter Digital Industry Growth & Innovation Taskforce (DiGiT) wishes to see our region take a lead. This incorporated representational not-for-profit association has the mission “By 2020, establish the Hunter as a leading digital regional economy with a global reputation”.
To achieve this we seek to be bridge between our digitally exposed business community and our region’s leadership to find areas where the embrace of technological innovation can be joined with the inclusion of a digital focus in planning and policy making. Our region is at risk of behind left behind compared to our competitive neighbours in positioning ourselves as being supportive and nurturing of technological focused innovation and business development. There has a bit lot happening at the grass roots level with the success of the Lunatick Society of Newcastle in bringing out and bringing together digitally minded micro businesses, the establish of co-working spaces such as StartHouse, the enthusiasm of some key innovative small businesses taking advantage of new technologies, and the success of local software development and IT businesses on the international stage.
We feel this can be a foundation on which to build the Hunter Region as the Smart Region in order to attract business investment, relocations from domestic and international metropolitan areas and other heavily congested areas, and more tech driven start-ups that overall combine to provide more jobs, more sustainable jobs in the new economy and lift the reputation of the region beyond a resource industry dependence.
To achieve this we need collaboration and a collective commitment to the Hunter DiGiT mission. This collaboration will serve to inspire and stimulate action in increasing online participation, investing in our existing digital businesses and to assist them attract external investment, investment in fixed and mobile broadband Infrastructure projects, developing digital literacy and skills, stimulating programs to increase digital literacy and broadband access for low income and disadvantaged groups, developing a supported digital industry sector, and enhancing our global reputation.
The key to regional advancement and prosperity is the same as the key to business growth and prosperity. This key is competitive advantage, our businesses and our region as a whole can prosper when consumer demand is good and supply is effective, our social support systems are effective, and our environment is protected.
Today, we as a business community, whether we like or not, are perpetually standing at the beginning of the future, together we are jointly responsible for the development and evolution of our economy from this day forward. Today’s launch of Hunter DiGiT and the Digital Economy Expo marks the moment we stop standing and start moving. We need you to come along with us for the ride.
Published as an Op-Ed piece in The Herald, click here to view.