Palerang welcomes the Digital Economy

Mayor of Palerang Walter Raynolds, Local Member for Eden Monaro Dr Mike Kelly and Regional Development Australia Southern Inland (RDA SI)'s Colin McLean and Ross Hampton lined up to support a raft of telework initiatives, including a potential telework hub in Bungendore, proposed by a Sustaining Our Towns (SOT) report at a public meeting held at the Palerang Council Chambers last Wednesday night.

The meeting was the launch of the Telework Options for the ACT Region report, a joint project between Sustaining Our Towns and FuturePLANS (Palerang Local Action Network for Sustainability).

This project was one of several innovative regional projects that Sustaining Our Towns, led by Tracey Rich, was able to establish in response to issues raised in Palerang’s community and across the region. SOT has been funded for the past three years through the NSW Government’s Environmental Trust.

After an enthusiastic opening from the Mayor Walter Raynolds, Ross Hampton, Board member from RDA SI and an employee of CISCO Systems, described the network of Smartwork centres that the City Of Amsterdam has used over the past five years to save money by reducing the number of buildings they maintain and encourage their employees to work locally.

David Anthony, consultant to Telework Options for the ACT Region, identified the retirement of the baby boomers from the Australian Public Service as one driver for telework becoming more common in our region. 'ACT Employers will look for every incentive to keep older workers on and attract a new breed of younger worker." David commented.

"If the Australian Federal Government leads by example and implements its’ own Digital Economy Goal of doubling the number of teleworkers by 2020 with a whole of government telework policy, the way that public servants work in the near future could be almost unrecognizable'.

Ross Hampton explained "In the near future data will no longer be stored on a desktop computer and employees will have secure access to the private cloud from wherever they choose to work. Any organisation adopting this will make savings by no longer needing to maintain individual computers and gaining efficiencies across departments"

Mel Hillery, an author of the report, described the feasibility study for a Bungendore Telework Hub.

"Once the infrastructure required is funded our report shows that the offices and upgraded Internet access to the Bungendore library can be maintained profitably with hourly booking rates that would cost less than a days' petrol and parking in Canberra.'

Dr Kelly then spoke to how the roll-out of the NBN would affect those wanting to telework from home explaining that Bungendore residents would receive fibre to their houses, although this may be some time away yet. The three year roll-out plan for the NBN was released on Thursday 29th March.

Rural residents are more likely to be covered by wireless broadband, completed by 2015. Those areas not covered by wireless will have a satellite solution.

“Increasing the level of telework with its associated benefits for employers, employees, roads, local economies and the environment, is a high priority for the Australian Government. I will be writing to the relevant Ministers to encourage them to look at how the Australian Public Service can become a model Employer in this regard’ Dr Kelly stated.

Colin McLean, Executive Officer with RDA SI, explained that RDA now can work with willing Councils to determine if a regional network of Smartwork hubs in southern inland NSW is viable, even before the roll out of the NBN.

“If a suitable infrastructure project can be developed, RDASI will then broker the project’s application to Federal and NSW funding programs to turn the concept into reality and continue to develop resilience in the local economy and community.” he said.

Residents from Captains' Flat were able to attend Wednesday’s public meeting "virtually" from the Captains' Flat community hall via a Skype link, the result of hard work by Palerang Councillors Paul Cockram and Peter Harrison, and the Captains Flat Community Association.

If this is possible, can we also imagine some of our work meetings done this way?

Just imagine what Bungendore might be like to live in if just 10 per cent more of us worked a day or two from home or a telework centre?

The Telework Options for the ACT Region report can be downloaded at http://www.sustainingourtowns.org.au/regional-initiatives/remote-work-around-the-act/ .

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