The scale of flooding in Queensland this year came as a shock to Australia and the world. The loss of life alone makes this year’s flooding a terrible tragedy in the history of the state. Add to that a repair bill in excess of $5 billion and a likely impact on National GDP of as much as $9 billion in export revenues alone and clearly this is one of the worst national disasters the country has seen.
With Cyclone Yasi following shortly afterwards and barely denting Queenslander spirits, it’s fair to say they’ve got mettle! Nevertheless, it will take more than spirit to repair the damage, and the technology industry is one of many that have been lending strong support from the early days of crisis and recovery. That support has come from every sector of ICT – both in Queensland and at a national level – and reveals an industry that is united and dynamic in times of need.
The Queensland Branch of the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) began by co-ordinating an ICT supply chain for Business Recovery Centres in partnership with local radio station NovaFM106.9 – placing a heavy emphasis on getting small business back up and running as quickly as possible. The Queensland Committee, made up of local members, provided strong support for the partnership.
During 2010, the Queensland Government had already placed a strong emphasis on the need to underpin its economy through the effective use of ICT, with all sectors of commerce in the state recognising that that technology will be a critical function in the future of the state economy.
One result is a collaborative relationship between industry and government based on good trust. For our part, AIIA was able use this relationship to proactively coordinate technology issues between three areas of government: Federal (through Enterprise Connect), State (through the Department of Public Works and the Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation) and Local.
This was a great opportunity to marshal expertise from across the industry in order to deliver important outcomes behind the scenes. With the crisis coming at the beginning of the school year, a core focus was on delivering essential support to the Department of Education to ensure a minimal impact on schooling.
Beyond immediate assistance, one of the most important elements of support that the ICT industry can deliver to Queensland is to help make the most of the imperative to rebuild. The opportunity to rebuild in an intelligent way now beckons, and at a fundamental level will deliver a state that is better able to meet the demands of future emergencies.
There is a strong onus on the ICT industry to work closely with the construction industry, for example, to deliver better-connected infrastructure. I also believe that National Broadband Network (NBN) rollout should be prioritised, wherever possible, rather than pulled back. Our industry can transform the benefits that traditional infrastructure delivers the community, from energy management to sustainability.
In the recent words of Dr Tim Williams, the “scale of this transformation means communications technology is as important to the country’s well being as transport and energy.”
It may yet be the most powerful contribution that ICT can make to building a better Queensland in the wake of the crisis.
This article by Philip Cronin,the chairman of the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA), is part of ARN's Consulting Room series.