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Online Opportunities And Challenges Unveiled In New Report

The Northern Inland region could gain an extra $1.3 billion per year if we capture the full benefits of the Digital Economy, with a 7% to 12% increase in our Gross Domestic Regional Product possible, according to a report released today by Regional Development Australia Northern inland (RDANI).

The Northern Inland Digital Economy Strategy for Business looks at how local businesses and communities in Northern Inland NSW can best take advantage of high-speed broadband and online ‘know-how’ to grow the regional economy.  The report examines the huge potential gains to be made by embracing the digital economy within the region and presents a number of recommendations that RDANI, Local Councils and local businesses can do to grow our online opportunities.

According to RDANI Chairman Mal Peters, all towns with existing technologies are able to make this happen but only if we employ some of the clever thinking that has been outlined in the Digital Economy Strategy. “We are already seeing a massive impact on our retail sector with the uptake of online shopping. So this report looks at ways that local businesses can be empowered and prepared for change in this arena to ensure they maximize their own benefits,” said RDANI Chair, Mal Peters.

The report outlines that 86% of businesses in the region currently do not sell online in any capacity, with around a third of those saying that lack of expertise, information and training are the biggest barriers to overcome. “Given that the national figures for online retailing show that even 40% of over 65 year olds are buying online and that the preference is for Australian-based sites, local businesses need to see the internet as a way to compete nationally as well as locally,” Mr Peters said.

As well as providing a ‘Ten Digital Next Steps for Small Businesses’ checklist, some of the key recommendations to come out of the report include the need to establish an Online Economy Taskforce with representation from the 13 LGAs, the need to expand training to get more businesses online, attracting private sector investment, providing the tools to local businesses to be able to compete online, leveraging off the NBN rollout in Armidale and establishing more wireless precincts throughout the region.
“World’s best-practice shows that regions that can innovate and are technologically ready for what the future holds are most likely to experience continued economic growth. We want to assist local businesses to expand into new markets and the digital economy can offer us limitless opportunities to do that,” Mr Peters concluded.

The Northern Inland Digital Economy Strategy can be downloaded at www.rdani.org.au/projects/digital-economy-strategy.php. Funding for the project was made available by the Australian Government.

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