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Digital connectivity and capability are essential for regional economic development in the 21st century. Key sectors such as agriculture, resources, energy, tourism, and health are undergoing dramatic transformation globally, and there are enormous opportunities for Queensland and Australia to leverage telecommunications and the internet to increase productivity, diversify industries, and access global markets. Never has digital connectivity been so important in improving livability and maintaining people and workforces in regional and rural communities.
Central Western Queensland Digital Connectivity Project: Assessment of the Social and
Economic Impacts of Digital Connection in Remote Communities
Covid-19 may be truly the wind that blows no good for any of Australia’s regions. Apart from the loss of human life and adverse health and social impacts, all regions have negative economic consequences. The speed and depth of the impacts, and the ongoing government responses to them, are unprecedented. Yet the impacts and outlooks vary across regions, as I discuss here with particular reference to the Queensland economy.
The economic impacts are occurring through several forces, including:
• Direct effects of government controls, which are limiting business operations
• Reductions in customer demand
• Flow-on effects through the economy.
There are some sectors most affected by these pressures:
• The direct effects of government controls are particularly impacting on Tourism, Hospitality, Arts & Entertainment, and Personal Services sectors. These are sectors requiring substantial travel and interpersonal contact, often involving small businesses.
• Reductions in customer demand are immediately impacting on Hospitality, Arts & Entertainment, Personal Services, and most Retail sectors. There are some increases in demand for supermarkets and liquor stores.
• Flow on effects into other sectors of the economy are beginning. For example, some health services are impacted by both shortages in supplies and reductions in demand, while reduced mobility and reductions in spending are reducing activity across the retail and services sectors.
• There are also some impacts on supply chains across all major sectors. However, most businesses are adapting to shortages in inputs rather than being forced to close.
The Boyne River Irrigation Area in south east Queensland includes approximately 30 irrigators growing a diverse range of agricultural products (See figure below). These include high-value horticultural field crops such as watermelons and pumpkins, perennial horticultural tree crops such as mandarins and pecans, perennial blueberry shrubs and irrigated pastures for cattle fattening. The irrigation area relies on water stored in the Boondooma Dam near the town of Proston (figure 2). However, the Tarong power station receives a large allocation (29,990 ML) of high priority water from the dam and irrigation water is 9,142ML of medium priority water. Some irrigators also have additional but quite limited on-farm water storages. Water available for irrigation is released from the dam, and it flows downstream where irrigators with a water allocation pump out of the river either directly onto crops or into on-farm storages.
Rural economies policy research team have published a working paper on the rural and regional work force. This paper finds that workforce issues in rural Queensland pose a complex societal problem, with significant strategic policy and program implications. Four key policy focus areas for action emerge, including regional workforce and skills shortages; workforce education and training; disruption and new workforce models for transitioning economies; and policy and program coordination. Vibrant and prosperous regional communities rely on industries that can meet their workforce needs and citizens that can find and retain employment and remain in the regions. It is argued that “that all places can grow when policy making is attuned to spatial particularities” (Pugalis & Gray 2016:181). The challenge for policymakers is how to ensure that workforce needs are identified at the local level and those policy innovations in education and training, workforce supply and workforce planning can meet the needs of rural Queensland industries and communities.
Authors: Hurriyet Babacan, Allan Dale & Jennifer McHugh (JCU/The Cairns Institute)
Internet connectivity is essential for prosperity and development in all societies. This policy‐focussed report is the culmination of a qualitative study of digital connectivity and telecommunications in rural Far North Queensland (FNQ). In particular, the research investigated the lived experience of digital inclusion – a combination of internet access, affordability of technology, and digital ability ‐ in agricultural households and communities the northern Gulf region. The Australian Digital Inclusion Index (ADII) shows that North West Queensland (which takes in the Gulf Savannah) is one of Australia’s least digitally included regions.
The ADII further suggests that farmers and farm managers tend to score more poorly in the Index than others in comparable circumstances, particularly on the digital ability sub‐index. This research aimed to unpack how these quantitative insights ‘play out’ in the context of rural FNQ, thereby shedding light on the nuanced and context‐specific factors that impact digital participation of farming households and communities.
Report Authors: Dr Amber Marshall (JCU/QUT) | Prof Allan Dale (JCU)| Prof Hurriyet Babacan (JCU)|Michael Dezuanni (QUT)
This paper explores the influences, challenges, opportunities and approaches to rural economic development in Queensland. It focuses on economic development and diversification centred on agricultural food and fibre value chain development and related regional industries. The paper describes the current situation of Queensland’s rural economy and the factors that are influencing it. It outlines the characteristics of a vibrant rural economy and summarises current and emerging rural economic development issues, initiatives and policies. The paper has been developed to provide information that forms the basis for the development of research, practice and policy priorities for the Rural Economies Centre Queensland
Professor Allan Dale, The Cairns Institute, James Cook University, Cairns; Professor John Rolfe, CQUniversity, Rockhampton; Professor John Cole & Professor Jim Cavaye, University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba - 2018
Rural economic development is a complex process and the breadth of issues confronting policy makers, both contextual and conceptual, need consideration. This paper provides an initial exploratory analysis and overview of key issues in economic policy making of relevance to rural and regional areas, highlighting the key issues that have emerged from scholars and practitioners. The purpose of the paper is to present the landscape of factors and issues relevant to policy making and to enable effective conceptualization of rural/regional economic policy development within a larger contextual framework. This exploratory paper will unpack key issues influencing rural/regional governance, policy formulation, adoption and implementation.
Authors: Professor Hurriyet Babacan, Professor Allan Dale, The Cairns Institute, James Cook University