Local government has an important role to foster the development and potential of its communities. Positive initiatives at local level, delivered in partnership with other levels of government, must ensure that rural and regional areas are not left behind in the digital transformation. This requires a strong partnership between local government, the community and other levels of government.
Local government has been advocating for all communities to have access to appropriate digital infrastructure to facilitate digital connection, including adequate and affordable high speed broadband, to enable communities to remain competitive, stimulate employment and foster economic growth.
Local government collects vast amounts of data and information and is increasingly using digital platforms to deliver and manage its communications, services and infrastructure. Examples include:
- council websites
- electronic payment services
- advanced technology for design and engineering projects
- electronic planning initiatives that enhance the transparency of development and development approvals
- 'smart cities’ technologies including the control of streetlights that for example dim when users are not in the area and light up again as user’s approach.
- traffic lights that manage traffic flow to minimise delay, and
- apps that help drivers reserve parking spots in busy city streets prior to commencing a journey or in advance of arrival.
However, all these technologies depend on high speed, reliable, high quality digital transfer, irrespective of whether it is via satellite, fixed wireless or optic fibre.
Local government also has an important role in ensuring communities are able to embrace digital transformation and that no communities are left behind by lack of telecommunications infrastructure through political advocacy work with the Federal Government, and in assisting to make communities and businesses digital-ready. Digital technology is critically important for smaller communities to attract and retain workers, attract population, and remain economically competitive.
National Broadband Network
Since the inception of the National Broadband Network (NBN), ALGA has been at the forefront of calls for greater connectivity across communities and has advocated for telecommunications services to be equitably delivered and affordably priced for all Australians so that no group of Australians gets left behind as technologies become more advanced.
The critical importance of reliable, accessible and affordable high speed broadband infrastructure to the national economy and the economic and social wellbeing of Australians has been extensively documented. ALGA has consistently argued that broadband is a key enabler of services and that there is a need to focus on realising the opportunities and potential that access to the NBN will provide to business, communities and governments, including local government. One of the major potential benefits of high-quality, reliable and affordable broadband will be the ability of residents to conduct e-business with all levels of government, including local government.
ALGA has worked in collaboration with the Australian Government to assist in the rollout of the NBN at the local level. Learnings from the first trial sites to receive broadband were used to produce a A Best Practice guide for Councils when initially dealing with NBN Co in 2011. ALGA continues to work collaboratively with the Australian Government and NBN Co to monitor the rollout of the NBN.
ALGA is also working with the Commonwealth Government on its Digital Transformation agenda to identify opportunities for digital transformation in local government and transform service delivery across all levels of government. Councils provide a range of transaction services, provide a number of services online and collect much public sector information, and are keen to embrace e-government.
Looking to the future, ALGA has resolved to do further work on partnership between the Federal Government and local government in the areas of:
- smart cities
- funding to continue the expanded role of public libraries as digital and social hubs within local communities
- regional development policy
- a review of Commonwealth funding to local government in order to better match funding with local government responsibilities.