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Invest local to get global benefits

Friday, 20 July 2018

IT’S easy to get overwhelmed by the inexorable and quickening march of digital technology and the impact it is having on our working, family and personal lives. The temptation is to focus more on what technology is doing TO you and your community - less privacy, more conflict online, constant distraction - rather than what it can do FOR you - real time data, greater efficiency, stronger, closer connections to your community and to the world.

One of the emerging stories of local government in Queensland is how our Indigenous councils are leading the way in realising the benefits of digital technology, big data and the internet of things.

Isolated geographically and, up until now, politically and economically as well, these councils are quick to understand the huge benefits of greater connectivity using digital advances.

These benefits extend far beyond achieving greater internet speeds or extending mobile phone coverage, although even these small outcomes remain out of reach for several communities.

But there are an increasing number of stories being created in indigenous communities that, when it comes to innovation and value for money, would embarrass larger, more privileged local governments.

Take Yarrabah in far north Queensland, for example, where an investment in vehicle tracking technology has allowed the local council to employ real time GPS data to maximise its capacity to attract fuel tax credits from the Australian Taxation Office. By accurately recording just how much off road use its plant and heavy vehicles were putting in, Yarrabah Aboriginal Shire Council was able to claim a whole lot of fuel tax credits that it might otherwise wouldn't have. The result is a fat cheque addressed to the council from the ATO. That money would never have come back to the community without the ability to employ the relevant technology.

Cherbourg Aboriginal Shire Council is another local government that is realising the value of investing in better technology. By opting to improve public safety and asset protection through installing CCTV systems and better lighting, the council now has a collection of assets that can be used to deliver other benefits such as reducing noise incidents in the community. In short, for a small amount of effort that council has taken big strides to achieve the outcome that their community and every other community in Queensland wants, a better place to live.

These were just two of the stories that featured at the LGAQ’s latest innovation roadshow this week in Sydney. About 20 Indigenous mayors, councillors and other local government leaders were briefed on new developments in digital technology aimed at helping their communities better connect with the rest of the world.

The LGAQ delivers the roadshows in partnership with Telstra and other tech firms as a way of ensuring that councils raise their own awareness of understanding of what is going on in technology: technology that they can apply for the benefit of their communities.

As Telstra’s Merrick Spain told the group these are technologies that help solve real problems but can also rectify problems that councils never knew existed.

As our program of Elected Member Updates wound up this week, it was no surprise to hear member concerns about the Palaszczuk Government’s Belcarra-inspired changes to laws governing declarations of conflicts of interest and material personal interest. The LGAQ has consulted our legal advisors King & Company and produced an updated declaration and resolution guide for members. Please keep this guide close by as it is aimed at ensuring all our members stay on the right side of these new laws.

Local Government Association of Queensland
LG House, 25 Evelyn Street, Newstead Qld 4006

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