Western Australia's Bunbury City Council is exploring the feasibility of adding a data centre, IT incubator and e-commerce training centre to its e-library as part of its far-reaching strategy "Smart Community" strategy.
Bunbury Business Development Officer Trevor Ayers says he has almost finished a scoping document preparatory to releasing a feasibility study that will determine whether there is sufficient community demand to turn the online library, being built with South West Online funding, into a super facility.
"The new library is going to need a lot of the same infrastructure, because of the technology bent it's taking, as a lot of the other projects that require specialized infrastructure for them as well. So what we're trying to do is hit them all at once by saying obviously if we need to build facilities its going to be a lot easier to do that in one go, and cheaper to build them all at the one time.
"In that document is we've identified a range of things that could work, but we can't afford to go and build them until we do some proper feasibility into whether there is enough market share or market demand in Bunbury to make them work."
Bunbury City Council's Smart Community strategy, recently endorsed by the council, is designed to address the digital divide and serve up a sweeping strategy for developing local IT and communications infrastructure and resources intended to boost the regional economy.
The strategy is a framework for turning the city into a "smart community" by enhancing broadband connectivity, reducing telecommunications costs, driving up IT use in the community and commercial sectors and ensuring the city becomes a regional hub for IT services.
Part of the plan calls for establishment of an aggregated business and residential voice communications market, to provide a business case for a telecommunications carrier to provide local call costs to Perth, or else establishment of a community telecommunications organization to reduce regional communications costs for subscribers.
Another element is looking at connecting currently existing "islands" of broadband connectivity around the City of Bunbury and in the outlying regional areas on an open access basis to create a totally "wired" city enabling delivery of high speed Internet services and communications to all areas of the City of Bunbury.
And the strategy envisions establishment of a commercial data centre facility for the hosting and delivery of IT applications and services to meet a perceived growing demand from both public and private local organizations for development of an industry class commercial data centre to service the South West region, including the requirements of the Bunbury City Council.
Meanwhile the Economic Development Advisory Committee which devised the strategy, comprising people from the local community and two Councillors, has identified a lack of local IT training opportunities as a barrier to the creation of a Bunbury Smart Community. Ayers will now explore the feasibility of developing a "state of the art" multi-use technology training centre for use by the IT industry, business and community groups.
"We are currently getting background information to determine whether there enough demand and community support for an IT incubator," Ayers says. "We know there is a demand, but is there enough to make it worth building the facility? We don't want to be left with a white elephant.
"Is there enough demand and potential success out of building a data centre? Is there going to be enough other people using it to make it worthwhile? . . . Yes we know there is interest in town from a number of people, because they know it won't happen through private industry in a regional area like Bunbury, but is there enough demand again to make it worth going down that path."
Ayers says a major thrust of the effort is to involve local businesses and other organizations in the development effort, finding synergies and opportunities for local businesses to work together. He says community ownership of the project is likely to be the most important predictor of its success.
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