Inovact Consulting has researched the stories of six regional businesses in Tasmania to understand what they are doing to translate broadband access into business outcomes. We found some practical insights for policy makers, regional leaders and businesses.
The National Broadband Network (NBN) opens many possibilities for rural and regional businesses. It is both enabling and disruptive, providing new opportunities and new threats. How well businesses manage the transition will define the enterprise and regional economic benefits.
Business owners know that there is a world of difference between business potential and achieving commercial results. It is not simply about connecting to the NBN, it is about how rural and regional businesses decide to adapt their plans and operations to use the new service to generate sustained profits. It is about how to manage transitional risk.
Our research confirmed that rural businesses that integrate technology into their operations are already reaping benefits, despite existing broadband service limitations.
For Huon Aquaculture Group, a successful salmon and trout producer, connecting its hatcheries, marine farms, processing plants and supporting offices all over Tasmania and on the mainland is essential to maintaining quality and competitiveness. Better services will provide opportunity for new innovations such as connecting the consumer to the catch and enable skilled employment to remain in regional communities.
For Hansen Orchards, which runs a successful export cherry and apple business, access to technology and broadband means the farm can be run more remotely and can make good decisions on time no matter where people are located. Remote working also frees key people from being on the farm all the time, enabling more time at home with their family.
The evidence is that successful regional businesses are already connected, innovating and competing in global markets.
Deciding how to respond to the disruption and opportunity afforded by high-speed broadband technology is firstly a question of strategy at the individual firm level. Businesses can begin to inform their strategy decision on how best to respond to the opportunity and threats presented by broadband technologies:
- Connect with regional information sources. Business associations, local government and regional development bodies can share ideas and information.
- Know customer priorities and directions. What are firms from important value chains that link consumers with regional businesses doing and planning?
- Watch the industry innovators. Successful commercial players locally and nationally are a source of valuable insights and lessons about what might work and what to avoid.
- Monitor overseas trends. Watch what overseas businesses in your industry are doing to identify strategies for using broadband technology.
With the connection of the NBN, leaders in industry, local government and regional development organizations need to prepare to lead the transition. Examining what better broadband means specifically for their local economies and whether people in business have the know-how, networks and knowledge to make informed decisions and take advantage of new services is a good place to start.