By Julian Bajkowski
Brisbane and Ballarat have become the latest local government areas to get the eligibility tick of approval under the federally funded Digital Hubs program, as Communications Minister Stephen Conroy plays Santa and continues the government’s non-stop charm offensive to spruik the National Broadband Network.
The Hubs are a pivotal part of the government’s grass roots marketing campaign to get digitally challenged community members and their associated support groups to back the massive broadband project by providing money for training and assistance in how to access online services.
The rollout of community training and support essentially runs alongside where the new optical fibre network is being dug in or strung up, frequently in areas that have endured decades of poor communications services including internet connectivity.
“We are already seeing the Digital Hubs around the country providing education and training to help people get the most out of the NBN,” Senator Conroy said.
“So far, the Digital Hubs have delivered 3,206 training sessions to over 6,600 participants. I encourage organisations in Brisbane and Ballarat to apply.
Aside from the general and economic social benefits of wiring-up and educating whole communities at a time, Senator Conroy and the government are certain to be hoping that the Digital Hubs musters enough grass roots support to swing otherwise ambivalent or apathetic electors into backing both the network and its provider.
Queensland and areas around Brisbane are a crucial electoral battleground for both sides of politics because of volatile and changeable sentiment in marginal seats that have, over time, elected candidates as divergent as Pauline Hanson to Kevin Rudd.
Getting local governments behind the NBN is also an important part of winning hearts and minds in regional Australia because the network potentially offers towns suffering population loss a selling point to convince people to stay or move to towns outside of major cities.
“If Australia is going to achieve the Gillard Government’s goal of being a world-leading digital economy by 2020, all of us need to keep developing our online skills and be aware of the opportunities that the NBN brings,” Senator Conroy expounded.
So-called city super-councils in capital cities are also keen to get a slice of the digital action as a way to deliver services and amenity to residents and business.
Brisbane City Council recently recruited a Chief Digital Officer to develop and execute strategies and programs that can take full advantage or modern technology, a move that has already yielded big dividends in New York and is being closely watched by other state capitals.
However groups that want to tap into the federal funding for Digital Hubs will need to be quick, with the due date for applications falling on Friday 25 January 2013 – just over a month away.
Funding for the Digital Hubs program is made available through a competitive grants process based on eligibility and selection criteria set down in the program guidelines.
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