Could Adelaide become Australia's start-up capital?


Offering lightning fast data networks is how Adelaide hopes to attract global businesses - and reinvent itself from a manufacturing city to Australia's start-up capital.

The City of Adelaide, hit hard by the decline of the manufacturing industry, has unveiled a plan to install a fast data network across the city within the next 12 months.

Lord Mayor Martin Haese says the plan will future-proof the city by offering businesses the chance to access data speeds 100 times faster than those offered by the NBN, at a cost.

It would be offered alongside the national broadband network, and complement a state government plan to install fast data networks to a number of dedicated business centres across the city.

“We’re answering three problems,” he says. “Data speed, bandwidth and data security.”

“This is for all those people that are using high volumes of data.”

Damien Mair, director of digital agency 'Fusion', welcomes the move. While he sees the many benefits to running a mid-sized business in Adelaide compared to cities on the eastern seaboard, internet speed has always been a concern.

"We've been able to build a strong, stable team in this environment," he says about his agency, which creates apps and webpages for clients.

“We could potentially grow our business by up to 40 per cent if we had faster internet connectivity,” he says.

Holden South Australia
The final Cruze rolls of the production line in 2016 ahead of the Elizabeth plant's scheduled closure in October 2017.

A future after manufacturing

With the imminent closure of Holden’s manufacturing plant in Adelaide’s north, and the expected 2019 closure of Amatil’s bottling plant, South Australia is looking for new ways to attract investment.

The state’s unemployment rate remains the highest in the country, and commercial real estate vacancy rates across the CBD are at their highest in 18 years.

Some see the development of an innovation industry as a balm to ease the sting of manufacturing decline.

“We’re coming out of that environment, so this investment in infrastructure is about investment attraction. It's about new economy jobs,” says Mr Haese.

He says he is hoping to emulate the success seen in cities like Chattanooga in the United States, where the fast data model is credited with helping revitalise the city. 

“It has attracted investment, it has retained youth, it has attracted jobs, it has brought more people to that city and actually new economy jobs, knowledge-intensive jobs have flocked to those cities,” he says.

Adelaide Ten Gigabit City graph
A graph explaining the City of Adelaide's vision for its 'Ten Gigabit City'.

Rob Livingstone, a technology advisor and fellow at the University of Technology, Sydney, says positioning Adelaide as Australia’s start-up capital has potential but will require more than just fast data.

“I think the evidence is that high speed network capabilities are a critical success factor, they absolutely do need to be there,” he says.

“Another critical success factor is the ability to partition out and be secure when needed to.”

He says the ability to create talent hubs where ideas can be discussed and shared is another marker of success.

“Where are the supporting services, not just internet and technology-based, but also organisations that have got centres of excellence that can collaborate and share with other people?”

“It’s really a question of aligning the planets."

Damien Mair runs a digital agency in Adelaide
Damien Mair runs a digital agency in Adelaide.
SBS World News

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