BRISBANE has the potential to lead the way as one of Australia’s smart cities. In this special technology edition, Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Senator Kim Carr (pictured) talks about advances in technology regarding ICT, BIM and the NBN roll-out.

When Queenslanders faced one of the worst natural disasters in Australian history, they turned to the internet.

More than 1200 tweets went out every hour when the flooding peaked in Brisbane, according to research by the ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation.

Queenslanders took control of their circumstances and they reshaped them together. It is a small mark of a sweeping transformation.

Advances in information and communications technologies (ICT) have reshaped every facet of our lives - the way we access and analyse knowledge; how customers connect to suppliers; managing a workplace; how we deliver essential services; and the way we see the world and our place within it.

These technologies have redefined the limits of human potential. We decide how we harness that power. The National Broadband Network (NBN) is the single largest infrastructure investment made by an Australian government.

It is the foundation of our national agenda for ICT – an agenda that spans every government portfolio.

My responsibility, as the Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, is to turn that infrastructure backbone into high-wage jobs and high-growth industries. We want ICT to be the platform for a dynamic small business community, with the strength to find and seize new opportunities.

Today, only two-fifths of Australian firms have a web presence, according to the latest ABS data. The smaller your firm, the less likely you are to maintain a website.

That has to change.Queensland is at the forefront of these developments, with the support of the Australian Government’s Information Technology Industry Innovation Council. The Council’s first chairman is John Grant, managing director of Brisbane-based company Data#3.

The Council’s role is to help Australian firms cut their costs and boost their potential through market-leading ICT. It allows the Government and other industry councils to maximise the returns on Australia’s technology investments.

The Built Environment Innovation Council for example, is exploring the potential of Building Information Modelling (BIM). BIM uses three-dimensional, real-time, dynamic modelling software to increase productivity in building design and construction, integrating data from every stage of the building life cycle. High-speed broadband is vital to transfer and access that data efficiently.

In the hands of skilled operators, BIM will enable building plans to be rigorously tested and optimised before the spadework begins. It will cut down the notorious bottlenecks, information gaps and scheduling complications in the construction phase. It will promote better asset management and help urban planners build cities that match our changing needs.

Every homebuyer and industry stands to benefit from this transformative technology. A report commissioned by the Built Environment Innovation Council found that widespread adoption would result in marked improvements in material consumption, energy efficiency, and carbon emissions. On average, an owner could save up to 10 per cent on the cost of their building.

The Government is also working directly with individual firms on the ground, giving them the support to invest in their future. Through Enterprise Connect, our support program for small and medium enterprises, we have already helped more than 7000 firms improve their business outcomes. It is a national network of industry experts, backed by targeted grants for innovative firms.

Upgrading your software takes time and money. Done properly, it pays for itself. Done poorly, it’s a costly burden on your operations. Technology and Knowledge Connect is one of the specialised services Enterprise Connect offers to support firms. It helps managers match their software to their business needs, and integrate the technology into their business model.

The Government’s online mentoring and assistance programs have also delivered returns for a variety of Queensland companies. One example is artist Ross Franzi, known for his vivid paintings of Australian wildlife and scenery.

Mr Franzi works at Bloomfield in Queensland’s tropical north, an area only accessible in a four-wheel-drive in the dry season. An improved web presence has opened his Black Cockatoo Gallery to the world.

He’s already exhibited in New York, with plans for an exhibition in Florence, Italy. He markets art master classes based on the Great Barrier Reef, the rainforest and the bush, attracting interest from as far away as France and Italy.

They’re not just buying Mr Franzi’s paintings – they’re coming to Queensland as tourists.

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