Central Highlands Digital Plan launched13/09/2019
The Central Highlands Regional Partnership today launched its Digital Plan – an evidence-based, place-based analysis of the supply of and demand for digital services and skills in the region.
The Plan is the first of nine being developed by Regional Partnerships across the state and provides the most comprehensive evidence to date of the region’s digital infrastructure landscape.
It identifies gaps in the region’s current digital infrastructure and makes recommendations on how these gaps can be addressed.
Among the key issues identified is inadequate mobile coverage in the region, with users recently registering 268 blackspots across the Central Highlands. Also of concern is the lack of availability of adequate, affordable business-grade telecommunications and digital connectivity services for regional businesses and the low take-up of Internet of Things applications in the region.
The Plan was developed after regional communities across the state told all nine Regional Partnerships that regional digital connectivity needed to be improved. Each Partnership took this message to the Victorian Government, which responded by supporting the development of nine Digital Plans as part of the $45 million Connecting Regional Communities program. This is part of the state’s broader Connecting Victoria initiatives.
Central Highlands Regional Partnership Chair George Fong said this is the first time government has undertaken such a consistent and coordinated survey of the digital connectivity landscape in close collaboration with regional stakeholders, recognising local challenges and priorities.
He added that the Partnership and other stakeholders in the region could now use the Digital Plan to advocate to all levels of government and industry for improvements to the region’s digital infrastructure.
Mr Fong said the Plan, along with the other eight in development, will “empower us collectively and in our individual Partnership regions to provide evidence-based proof of where the Digital Divide lies in our regions and map the impacts and effects.”
“This is a really important document that will help us advocate for improvements here in Central Highlands, but also across all of regional Victoria,” Mr Fong said. “Digital technology and infrastructure are fundamental to the economic and social growth of regional Victoria, and it is essential that our businesses and communities are not left behind.
“We want to thank the Victorian Government for supporting this Plan and for the leadership it has shown in helping to address the Digital Divide. Regional communities are now much better placed to advocate on digital connectivity issues and contribute to policy and program development.”
Minister for Regional Development Jaclyn Symes welcomed the publication of the first regional Digital Plan. “Regional communities and businesses, through the Regional Partnerships, have made it clear that digital connectivity is a must have for their future economic and social development.
“The Victorian Government recognises this and understands the challenges regional and rural communities have faced to achieve adequate services to meet their needs. To help address this digital divide, we have invested over $130 million across the state since 2014 through the Connecting Victoria suite of initiatives to improve digital connectivity across our regions.”