Yet the island is a hub of technological innovation, with some of the original ideas for the National Broadband Network (NBN) spawned in the state.
Favouring the top end of town — and dividing small to medium businesses (SMBs) depending on access — the NBN and private networks have helped the local progression of technology, with cloud a model of choice in Tasmania.
“Businesses are buying as-a- service and we have seen it a lot in personal procurement,” TasmaNet managing director Josh Harris observed.
But while the state faces similar tech headwinds as the rest of Australia, such issues are not as acute due to the proactive approach of the Tasmanian Government and other state institutions such as TasICT.
According to policy, by 2018, all Tasmanian Government agencies will be procuring technology through cloud, alongside a mandate that all data produced in the state must remain on island.
“We are a regional player, we are at the end of a digital cul-de-sac so we required a policy decision to ensure some data did stay on the island,” Harris said.
“A lot of people who strategically understand technology — both in business and government — think this is important for the state.”
From an infrastructure and connectivity standpoint, the NBN continues to act as a great divide for businesses across the state.
“I wouldn’t say it’s been a smooth ride but we’ve been lucky,” Harris said. “There was pressure from the community to make the rollout as effective as possible. People have become accustomed to NBN just being there and when it’s not they get upset.”
Consequently, this has created a state of “haves and have nots”, impacting SMBs specifically. The issue is not just limited to internet connectivity however, but also telephony.
“In the areas without NBN, the price of telephony is quite high and this has disadvantaged many businesses,” Interact IT managing director James Newman said.
As one of Tasmania’s largest integrators, Interact IT serves the SMB market across the state, leveraging vendor partnerships such as Microsoft, Lenovo and Aerohive.
According to Newman, the state is experiencing a “huge tourism boom”, leading to an increase in sales within the hospitality sector as businesses pursue public Wi-Fi and point-of-sale system technologies.
“Visitors, especially those from the mainland now expect free Wi-Fi,” Newman acknowledged. “If a hotel or a restaurant does not have it, customers will go somewhere that does.”
While public Wi-Fi was once seen as a bonus service which proprietors could charge for, Newman said it
has now moved into a necessity for the sector, driving sales for the ICT industry as a result.
And with Tasmania seen as a microcosm of the greater Australian economy, pound for pound, this is an island punching well above its weight.
As Tasmania takes advantage of the potential of NBN, Queensland partners remain challenged however, by ongoing issues around connectivity and availability.
“One of the biggest challenges we are facing is the continued problems surrounding the roll out of the NBN,” Reef IT general manager Aaron Jervis said. “Some of the more common issues include the shortfall of fibre to multi-tenant premises.
“For instance, you may have an office block with 10 tenants, and nine of those are serviceable for NBN, but the 10th tenant is not, as they were missed during the fibre cabling installation. Trying to get that 10th tenant an NBN connection can take months."
Citing a lack of communication, Jervis said that with a wide variety of companies providing NBN installation services to a wide variety of tenancies, issues naturally arise around site access, faulty cabling, lack of appropriate roof access and body corporate restrictions.
“Unfortunately, when faced with an issue during an installation, your standard nbn co installer will leave site without appropriately communicating what the issue was,” Jervis added. “This can lead to weeks of delay to resolve the issue and finish the job."
Taking the NBN debate south to Victoria, similar connectivity struggles exist, creating a Tasmanian type market split in terms of the “haves and have nots”.
Because in Melbourne and the wider areas, it appears that bigger is better, with the state’s largest organisations innovating at a rapid pace with digital transformation and outsourcing the overriding theme of 2017.
Yet across SMB sectors, and even creeping into the mid-market, businesses are struggling to modernise as they anxiously wait for the NBN rollout.
Further still, the disparate rollout has seen regional customers embrace new technologies faster than metropolitan counterparts due to better connectivity levels.
“It’s a big problem for our metro clients as access to many of the services they are looking to acquire are dependent on internet speeds,” Zynet operations manager Marina Zanghellini acknowledged.
As a Melbourne-based provider serving predominantly the SMB to mid-market sectors, Zanghellini said businesses are “caught in limbo” between paying a high price for an enterprise-grade fibre network, or
dealing with connectivity issues until the NBN arrives.