Don't wait for the bushfire to strike to digitally transform
Regional councils who’ve lived through a natural disaster say digital preparedness is key.
It’s time to learn the lesson our colleagues in regional and regional councils already know — you don’t wait for the bushfire till the bush fire is upon you. Now’s the time to be investing in the tools to help you fight the next fire.
While the level of disruption from COVID-19 is unprecedented, for many Australian local governments, planning for disruptive events is a common practice — and it’s leading them to cloud-based solutions.
At Tablelands Regional Council, based in Atherton Queensland, Senior Business Services Officer Sarelle Sinclair says the risk of severe weather events was a key part of the reason for the recent decision to move parts of its information technology infrastructure to the cloud.
“We wanted to modernise our systems and overcome limitations such as ageing infrastructure, and the risks of operating in a remote, cyclone-prone area. The purpose of all of that was improved stability, mobility, speed and service — and resilience,” she says.
While working away from the office during bushfire events, Noosa Shire Council’s ICT Manager Justin Thomas shared on LinkedIn a vote of thanks to software solution vendors including TechnologyOne, which were helping the council’s team members continue to deliver services.
Mr Thomas said his team had seen requests for IT support from within the council double in the month of March as the organisation moved to set up team members to work remotely as a result of the coronavirus situation.
So, does hands-on experience with some of the many challenges nature can throw at us influence communities — and the local government authorities which represent them — in terms of their attitudes to risk management?
“It is certainly a factor,” says Ed Chung, CEO of TechnologyOne, whose software powers many of Australia’s local governments. “Councils in regional and rural areas by default need to have a level of independence and self-reliance.”
“We work with local government authorities all across Australia, New Zealand and the UK. And we’ve been in this business for thirty-three years. That’s enough time to be able to observe some general trends.”
“Many of our local government customers cover non-metropolitan areas. By and large, we find they run leaner operations, which usually mean less resistance to change, so they tend to be early adopters of technologies that help keep the lights in a crisis.”
Mr Chung says that in rural and regional areas, council mayors tend to become the community focal point in a crisis. That responsibility also tends to focus the thinking of council executives, leading them to invest in business continuity planning.
“Geography also plays a role. When you’re living and working at some distance from the ‘Big Smoke’ you know that help, when it comes, is going to take a while. That tends to foster a level of self-reliance in the people running rural and regional councils.”
“That responsibility means councils themselves have to think long term about their ability to provide those services in an emergency. That invariably leads to business continuity planning and, these days, that leads them to cloud-based solutions,” Mr Chung says.
It’s time to learn the lesson our colleagues in regional and regional councils already know. You don’t wait for the bushfire till the bush fire is upon you. Now’s the time to be investing in the tools to help you fight the next fire.
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