BizMonth Launch – Technology, connectivity, and communication
Technology, connectivity, and communication were the key themes of the evening launch event for this year’s BizMonth, sponsored by nbn Co and Bathurst Regional Council, held at The Upstairs Startup Hub, 6pm February 8th 2022.
The venue was filled to capacity with over 60 local business people interested in hearing from experts in the technology, digital innovation and communication fields.
Guests were welcomed by Mayor for Bathurst Region, Robert Taylor, and Paul Jones, the new president of the Bathurst Business Chamber, both of whom shared their visions for building on the strengths of the region and capitalising on new opportunities as they emerge.
Central to the launch event was a moderated discussion from a panel of experts, skilfully facilitated by Bathurst Broadcasters’ Janeen Hosemans, whose intelligent and timely questions kept discussions engaging and focused.
Chris Cusack, General Manager nbn Local, kick-started the panel commentary by outlining nbn Local’s $4.5 million corporate plan that delivers innovative connectivity, supporting businesses from the build phase through to successful operation, a program which is implemented in 22 regions across the nation, and which is focused on looking after regional Australia. Cusack was quick to agree that the COVID period pressure to support online remote work had accelerated the introduction and adoption of technology, which nbn was well-placed to deliver; noting that 1.6 million people were able to work from home during COVID lock-down periods thanks in part to nbn. Cusack pointed to nbn’s focus on delivering a symmetrical service that is scalable and affords a level playing field for regional and metropolitan businesses.
Thomas Burton, Charles Sturt University’s Chief Development Officer provided context to Charles Sturt University’s growing relationship with IBM and expanded on the value of the university’s collaboration with and ongoing support for regional business development. Burton agreed with the assertion that there was a COVID-driven acceleration in tech uptake and noted that it had exposed a gap in the University’s talent pool. Working to fill the talent gap, Charles Sturt University has taken on the challenge of identifying opportunities for talent development, looking at different models of engagement and delivery in regional universities and researching how to secure an interested and invested workforce in the short, medium and long-term future. Charles Sturt University and IBM have identified five locations where opportunities exist to support regional students.
Burton was joined in this talent development discussion by leader of IBM’s Client Innovation Centres in Australia and New Zealand, Steve Davies, who outlined his organisation’s approach to business client engagement research and development and crunched the numbers on student engagement.
“Across the past 15-20 years we have supported hundreds of students in regional Victoria, 360 in fact, with 20-30 students involved in paid internships at any one time,” noted Davies.
“Study with us, work with us, and move to work ready transfer.”
Burton confirmed the value of the IBM/Charles Sturt University relationship, noting it provided an exciting opportunity for the University to grow in the area of tech innovation. Charles Sturt has ramped up its general IT focus, with their aim to become a leader in the field.
Burton and Davies highlighted the invaluable ecosystem that the IBM/Charles Sturt University collaboration produced, with positive employment outcomes not restricted by geo-location, thanks to COVID-driven tech connectivity.
Chris Thorpe, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Leading Edge Data Centres, a cutting edge network and communication company, brought to the event his business’s plans for equitable high-end service provision to regional customers. Leading Edge has seven data centres in operation in NSW and more planned to come online in the near future. Thorpe emphasised the contribution that the speed, capacity and integrity of the connections provided by Leading Edge make, drawing organisations out into the regions with fault tolerant data access, and noted Leading Edge’s strong relationship with nbn.
When asked how local businesses might use Leading Edge Data Centres services, Thorpe pointed to distances between Sydney and Bathurst and Dubbo, Wagga Wagga and Tamworth and the value of having equitable speed and capacity of connection to data in regions, that was not reliant on accessing city-based data centre assets or impacted by major storms around metropolitan areas.
“Creating local infrastructure builds regional resilience,” noted Thorpe, adding that the local Bathurst Leading Edge infrastructure and resulting shift of businesses to the region would see an increase in demand for local IT professionals. Pointing to one trucking company’s experience, Thorpe noted that the quality of Leading Edge’s service had resulted in 75% savings in telco costs per annum.
Returning to Charles Sturt University’s experience, Burton reassured the audience that Charles Sturt University was ‘here for good’ and was busy securing partnerships with alignment in sustainability and regional development.
“We take seriously our role in addressing regional digital literacy and ask what can we do to find commonality in finding solutions; building momentum and carving out opportunities to bring more businesses to town and working together with them.”
With cybersecurity on everyone’s mind, Janeen Hosemans asked Thorpe to explain the cybersecurity benefits Leading Edge might offer. Thorpe noted his business’ two and half years of experience in the marketplace and the strength of their partnership with global tech player, IBM, which invests heavily in research and development in the field of cybersecurity.
Panel members each took to defining the term ‘digital transformation’, with IBM’s Davies explaining its ideal deliverable being a level playing field for regional businesses, notably the provision of innovative, scalable connectivity and fortress cloud security.
“Digital transformation equalizes the natural advantages to regional towns like Bathurst, supporting organisations to make choices,” agreed Cusack.
Pointing to innovation in the agricultural sector, Leading Edge’s Thorpe noted Australia was one of the world’s highest adopters of the Internet of Things (IOT) and that a vast swathe of data exists to be mined.
Panel members agreed that it would be through the partnering of industry and government that valuable research would be better understood and translated into commercialisation.
Burton stated that Charles Sturt University was excited by research into how data could be used to solve a range of issues, translating tech into effect on social as well as economic issues.
Davies highlighted the strong relationship between the two organisations, IBM and Charles Sturt, and their joint focus on building regional workforce motivation and capacity for lifelong learning. Further noting the advantages to Bathurst, Davies went on to stress, “We bring innovation to clients, where they are, and we bring our teams to locations which in turn attracts other organisations.”
When questioned on their commitment to diversity, Davies stressed IBM’s commitment to inclusive employment opportunities and explained their actions to engage neuro-diverse prospective employees and mentor young women.
Burton pointed to Charles Sturt University’s dedicated First Nations workstreams as a strategic priority, garnering support from Davies who noted that Charles Sturt University’s lead in First Nations engagement and investment was a key foundation in IBM’s decision to partner with Charles Sturt University.
nbn Local’s Cusack closed the evening by confirming his organisation’s ongoing work to reduce isolation in First Nations remote groups, enhancing inclusive opportunities.
The launch event was well attended and well received. It provided guests with a chance to hear from key representatives of four organisations that are delivering digital transformation to our region, and to gain insight into the benefits this tech is likely to bring and the timeframes on which these organisations are basing their investment in Bathurst region.
Watch the recording of the event below.