Our Fast Reliable Future

This week The Economist reports that a number of companies have bold ambitions to use satellites, drones and balloons to bring the Internet to the unconnected (The Economist, April 11th 2015 ‘Expanding the internet Sky-Fi’). They write that only 2% of the world’s population was online in 1997, now there are 3 billion people are online. Like most infrastructure, the Internet is easiest to provide in biggest cities. People in the countryside, even those in rich countries such as ours must often do with less or even without.

That is not so here in Coffs Harbour. As was reported in the weekend’s Advocate (The Coffs Coast Advocate, 11 April 2015 ‘Have you got a start-up idea that’s worth funding’), Deputy Mayor Sally Townley regards the city of Coffs Harbour as one which is at the forefront of digital innovation. It was reported that a number of local interest groups have teamed up to create the Telstra Stores Coffs Harbour Digital Innovation Challenge where a total of $10,000 in cash and prizes are on offer over two categories for entrepreneurs, under and over 25 years of age to pitch.

We here at the Coffs Harbour Chamber of Commerce is one of the sponsors of the Challenge; after all the Chamber is a leading voice and the representing body for local business. As such we are in direct dialogue with NBN Co, giving us a direct line of communication to NBN Co senior representatives for the benefit of our members.

We are excited about the opportunities that fast and reliable broadband affords our members and our city. We also want to assist our members who have questions during the transition from analogue to digital broadband in Coffs Harbour, because we know that there are challenges. To that end, we will soon be giving our members opportunity to put questions regarding issues they have in that transition to digital broadband technology, directly to an NBN Co representative appointed to look after our region.

You see, the benefits that fast reliable broadband bring are particularly relevant to the Coffs Coast; our city already is so easy to access by road, rail, air and if we have it our way at the Chamber even by sea. With the addition of fast and reliable broadband access, our city is truly poised to improve even further by bringing new opportunities for the types of business that drive the world economy post Global Financial Crisis. After all, the New York Times reports that New York City has created more jobs in the past five years than during any five-year period in the last half century, but without relying on Wall Street. (NYT 15/02/2015 ‘In New York City, Jobs Come Back Without Wall Street’) In other words, the growth is not in the investment banks and brokerage firms; the atmosphere is different from 1999, at the height of the tech stock bubble, or even 2007 before the US housing bubble burst. Financiers are not throwing themselves lavish parties, because it’s not that kind of job boom. It’s a wide variety of businesses in different industries contributing to a more diversified job growth. Fast growing and well paying Internet companies play a large role. Tech companies are hiring like crazy. The city’s unemployment rate has plummeted. In the process, almost every industry in the city has been adding jobs at a healthy pace. Amongst the fastest growing sectors are health services and places that serve food and drinks. This is a very positive sign.

Now, while we here in Coffs Harbour are not New York City, and I dare say never will want to be, these are signs that the world has changed. We have moved away from the money mad consumerism that was so rife pre-GFC, towards a world that is more informed, more open and more connected than ever before. As one of the handful of regional centres at the forefront of fast and reliable broadband, together with all our other attributes, including our warm and welcoming people, our University, a leading health sector, some of the most progressive environmental protection policies in the world, a brand-new Justice precinct and so much more, we are poised on the brink of an exciting future.

At the Chamber, we want your business to be part of that future. Please join us in our vision, which is as simple as becoming a member. Simply call Garth Shipperlee, Chambers’ Executive Officer on 6651 4101.