Canberra – The Leading Digital Plans Of ACT Government

The ACT Government is committed to evolving Canberra into a smart and connected digital city If you are looking out for a city that’s up to date with the digital technology, you’ve landed up on the right page! Canberra is one of those cities who’ve adopted the digital innovations long before many cities. The city is full of smart entrepreneurs, tech developers and early adopters of technology.

According to the Digital Canberra survey published in 2013, 95% of the Canberrans use the internet at work through multiple devices. A whopping 84% and 82% use desktops and laptops respectively. This shows how extensively the people of Canberra are digitally connected.

Yet the city hasn’t stopped at it. For, having a full-fledged smart city is the vision of  Canberra too. The ACT government is constantly involved in composing action plans to digitalise the city and make it a leading digitally smart city in the world. How is it fulfilling the dream is what we’ll be exploring next!

The Digital Action Plan – 2014 To 2018

In 2014, the ACT (Australian Capital Territory) Government rolled out an action plan with a vision to build up a dynamic digital Canberra. The plan initiated,  considering the input from industries and the community. At its core, the action plan coming to a conclusion next year in 2018, will be a roadmap that showcases how Canberra is leading the digital innovation by testing, recognising and implementing the ideas and solutions while making the best use of digital opportunities.

The Action Plan consists of 5 key areas where Canberra is set to revolutionise the city digitally:

  • Smart City – To create a vibrant and smart city space by installing free public WiFi and digital arts
  • Digital Economy – Enhancing the digital economy to build a strong workforce, increase productivity and make way for new alliances
  • Connected Community –  Social engagement including active participation of people with the city and expanding the workspace to make it more pliable
  • Open Government – Deploying big data in strengthening the economic power. To aid people with more convenient health and education services keeping the public demand in focus.
  • Digital Services – Developing more effective and faster digital services to help elevate the quality of life for people. And, at the same time opening doors to a digital government with more efficacy and connectedness.

The action plan, currently in progress involves collaborations with different industries, academia and technology-rich sectors to work on ideas and strategies to create one of the most powerful digital economies.

Access To Free Public WiFi – A Digital Initiative

A part of ACT Government’s visionary Action Plan, CBR free public WiFi is the largest digital initiative executed in Australia. It facilitates the citizens with access to dozens of city services via broadband.

As of May 2017, 382 Wireless Access Points have been outfitted comprising 248 outdoor WAPs. The WiFi has become an important source for the people who do not have access to fast and reliable internet services. Every month, considering the citizens and the constant inflow of visitors, more than 50,000 people in Canberra use the free public WiFi individually on daily basis.

In addition, there are far greater advantages of the free public WiFi in the city.
Such as, the WiFi network is beneficial in supporting a diverse range of smart city initiatives – accelerating the Action Plan of ACT Government. For instance, the free WiFi network facilitates a communication network for the ACT Government’s Smart Parking trial going on in Manuka. Plus, the free WiFi is being deployed in intensifying the city’s CCTV network.

CBR free WiFi provides speed going up to 250 megabytes per day that equals to approximately 1 hour of video access, 50 photographs of 5 megabytes each and 50 songs of 5 megabytes each.

Furthermore, the free WiFi is equipped in five public buses to test the service performance and usage (Part of Action Plan). The data gathered from it will be used for further investments.

The CBR free WiFi collects a minimal amount of data on how many people are connected and in which location. It does not track any kind of individual information of the people.

The Chief Minister Of Canberra, Katy Gallagher explains, “It’s not about whether people have alternative means of access, it’s about ensuring that EVERYONE has the chance at access and puts everyone on a common ground. It also means that public services can be delivered in a different manner if you assume that the entire population has free access to a reasonable internet connection. I think this is a mandatory step 1 to a productive digital future in the ACT.”

The Smart Parking

ACT Government officially partnered with the Smart Parking Limited, to launch the innovation in parking on the streets of Canberra. Smart Parking Limited is giving in its contributions to the city with the latest technology in smart parking and years of experience in the field and around the world.

With its parking technology outfitted in many other cities, Smart Parking Limited is helping Canberra achieve the kind of innovative future they long for. They are associated with the venture from past two years and will be working with the city for the next three years.

Till date, LEDs and sensors have been installed. A trial is being held in Manuka, Canberra where 460 infrared parking bay sensors, five LED street signs (to show parking availability) and ParkCBR smartphone app are already up and moving.

The ParkCBR app provides real-time information on parking space, directs the drivers towards the parking point and supports in paying for the parking by providing a direct link to ParkMobile. Besides, Access Canberra and Parking Operations staff will be there for user support and queries.

The test phase under progress will find out how the parking system is facilitating the users and how is it capable of decreasing congestion and providing best parking experience.

The Digital Backpack

Another leading-edge initiative by the ACT Government is the launch of ‘The Digital Backpack’ in the field of education.

Digital Backpack is an online portal that serves the students with a wide variety of learning tools with ease and convenience. It is available for access from any device with internet connection, at home, school or anywhere. The online learning services are just one click away from SchoolsNET username and password. Moreover, the online portal is completely protected and secured by ACT Government’s management system.

The features involved in Digital Backpack are:

  • Cybersafety Help Button – Assistance, counselling, and reporting provided to students pertaining to cyber safety and risks
  • Google Apps For Education – A cloud-based learning platform which offers beneficial tools and space for students to connect
  • Microsoft Office 365 – Provides access to cloud based online storage and convenience to download latest MS office version
  • eBooks in the Oliver Library – The online library named ‘Oliver’ accommodates more than 2000 ebooks and audiobooks for teachers and students
  • MyLearning (LIFE) – A space suitable for learners of all ages that provides learning collaborative tools
  • Parental Consent – Few of the services in the Digital Backpack are open to access only after the school receives consent from parents
  • Privacy Information For Parents – Students’ individual information is prioritised and secured. Parents are provided options regarding the services to be permitted for their child

The Digital Backpack program shows the joint effort of the ACT Government with academia and the citizens and its focus towards young learners.

Apart from the digital initiatives of Canberra, ACT Government is also working on its vision of ‘100% Renewable Energy By 2020’. The project is already in progress and the Government finds it as the beginning of the journey.