ARMIDALE Dumaresq Council has become the first council in Australia to receive federal funding for NBN-enabled local government services.
Council received $375,000 from the Federal Government through the Digital Local Government Program to improve customer services through videoconferencing and enable better public access to council officers.
In a media release, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said the fibre-optic network would improve
the relationship between ratepayers and local government.
“The NBN allows local councils to put residents and ratepayers at the heart of local government service delivery, where they should be,” he said. “Ultimately this means better, more accessible and more convenient services, delivered more efficiently and with less hassle.”
Attentive Consulting CEO Sam Austrin-Miner said the funding would help streamline customer service.
“Instead of phoning, physically coming, faxing or emailing you can go online to the Council website, press a button and speak to a customer services representative directly via videoconferencing,” he said.
“The difficulty with councils is traditionally that they’re impenetrable. You’re dealing with a front desk of people who have to field millions of different issues.
“That’s very frustrating for the public, so allowing the public to actually get contact with them by booking videoconferencing calls is very special.”
New England MP Tony Windsor met with mayor Peter Ducat and general manager Shane Burns on Wednesday to be briefed on the project.
“Armidale Dumaresq Council is leading the way with this new videoconferencing application,” Mr Windsor said. “It’s further evidence of the huge range of possibilities that are opened up by the NBN.
“It’s great the Federal Government is recognising local government and the capacity to leap forward. It’s also fantastic to see it happening in the country and that we’re part of it.”
Cr Ducat thanked Mr Windsor and Council staff for making the NBN in Armidale a reality.
“I think [Mr Windsor] was instrumental in making sure the NBN worked and was probably instrumental in making sure Armidale had a chance to be the first too,” he said. “I’d like to acknowledge the fact that staff are meeting the challenge and showing that we can take advantage of this opportunity.”
A local contribution of $139,792 will be provided by Council. It is expected to be operational by the end of November.