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Designing a digital future

Designing a digital future: Why we’re making digital infrastructure a priority for Queensland

Now more than ever, digital infrastructure affects almost every aspect of our lives. That’s why it’s so important there is planning to improve our digital infrastructure in Queensland.

To imagine a life without digital infrastructure, you’d need to imagine living in a world with only mechanical and analogue technology. No mobile phones, digital TV stations, internet or computers, certainly no wearable smartwatches or devices that could control the temperature of your house or play music by voice command.

You might be able to imagine it, after all, it wasn’t really that long ago that this was the case; the technology that led to many of our digital devices was only invented in the 1940s. But these days, digital infrastructure fits into our lives so seamlessly, it’s become as essential to us as other forms of infrastructure like power, roads and public buildings.

It’s important that we’re working with the Australian Government, NBN Co and other providers to  plan ahead to maintain and improve our digital infrastructure, so that all Queenslanders have access to life-changing digital services. Our State Infrastructure Strategy is embracing these opportunities to innovate and create new ways to use digital technology to improve the way we live, work and grow.

What is digital infrastructure?

Digital infrastructure is the physical technology that allows us to access the digital world. This includes mobile networks, fixed-line and satellite broadband services, location-based technologies like GPS, data centres and the Internet of Things.

However, you’re reading this article right now – on your phone, laptop or PC – you’re using forms of digital infrastructure to access it. So many of our daily activities rely on digital infrastructure, from internet banking and shopping, to the ways we communicate and socialise online. Our reliance on digital infrastructure has only grown since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. On a business and industry level, digital infrastructure allows Queenslanders to innovate, research, plan and communicate, and operate with more efficiency and effectiveness.

How Queenslanders use digital infrastructure

The majority of Queenslanders use digital infrastructure every day, as shown in studies from the state and around the country.

A 2018 report by the Queensland Government Statistician’s Office showed that 86.3% of Queensland homes had internet access, a figure that will be higher now four years on. Use of smartphones is also high, with a 2021 report by the Australian Communications and Media Authority report showing that 93% of Australians used a mobile phone to go online in the first half of the year. Almost half of Australian adult internet users worked from home online in 2021 and one-third studied, and research by CSIRO and NBN Co suggests that 20% of Australians will continue to work from home indefinitely.

The challenges and opportunities of digital infrastructure in a decentralised state

Living in a vast state like Queensland creates unique challenges and opportunities when it comes to planning, building and maintaining digital infrastructure. How do you make sure that a population that’s dispersed over 1.7 million square kilometres has equal access to digital technologies and can keep up with an increasingly digital world?

Our plans to maintain, improve and extend Queensland’s digital infrastructure include these current key initiatives:

  • Improving connectivity in regional and remote Queensland

    An important part of our planning for digital infrastructure is ensuring that the digital divide between rural and metropolitan parts of Queensland doesn’t widen and that solutions are found to improve the efficiency and sustainability of digital infrastructure across the state. While work in this area is led by the Australian Government and NBN Co, we can use our planning and influence to guide appropriate investment and help network with industry.

  • Developing a 10-year Digital Infrastructure Plan

    Developing a collaborative plan to work with agencies including the Australian Government and NBN Co, who lead action on digital infrastructure, as well as industry, will be critical to avoid the digital divide widening in regional and remote Queensland.

  • Improving our emergency telecommunication facilities

    By working with NBN Co and councils on the Strengthening Telecommunications Against Natural Disasters program, we will improve emergency telecommunication facilities in emergency shelters and assembly areas. Queensland is Australia’s most disaster-prone state, with community safety and recovery dependent on digital infrastructure.

Other challenges we’re planning to tackle include addressing Queenslanders’ digital literacy and making sure Queenslanders understand and can use digital infrastructure. We will also be implementing a ‘digital by default’ mindset into infrastructure projects, a change in the way government and industry sectors have traditionally worked, and looking at ways to increase market competition to encourage investment and drive down service costs.

You can read more about our plans for digital infrastructure in the State Infrastructure Strategy 2022.

What is the role of digital infrastructure in the Internet of Things?

Cables that run internet signals or data towers are digital infrastructure we can see and understand, but what is the Internet of Things and why is it important?

It might sound like a sci-fi reference, but the Internet of Things, or IoT, is a term used to describe the networks that objects use to operate and communicate. IoT is an increasingly important part of digital infrastructure, and something that needs to be considered when planning for our digital landscape.

So, what is it? It’s the network of objects (or things) that collect data using sensors and exchange that data in real time. Do you have a smartwatch or fitness tracker? Those devices use IoT to gather data like your heartrate or your finger flicking to dismiss an email and share that data, for example to your phone or an app. They might be connected to wireless internet, a data network or Bluetooth.

Other examples of devices that use the IoT are smart cars that use fob sensors to unlock your car when you’re nearby, smart traffic lights that communicate with each other to control the flow of traffic, a fridge that sends you an alert if the door is left open, clothes dryers that use sensor technology to use energy in a more sustainable way and tractors that can sense the level of moisture in soil and report back to the farmer.

Planning for the Internet of Things as it evolves and grows is important to mitigate risks it can create in the areas of privacy and security and ensure systems work effectively to benefit us all.

Last updated: 06 Jun 2023