Smart Access to Community Services, Mid Murray Region

Funded

Mid Murray Council

Entire local government area, South Australia

Project stage

Concept

Timeframe

Start date: 01 November 2018
End date: 15 June 2019

Project value

Australian Government funding:
$195,426
Total:
$549,280

Partners

  • District Council of Loxton Waikerie
  • Regional Development Australia Murraylands and Riverland Inc
  • Cadell Community and Tourist Association
  • The Swan Reach Progress Association

Focus area

  • Visitor experience
  • Public administration and customer service

Project type

  • Community engagement
  • Visitor experience
  • Smart governance

Technology type

  • Wi-Fi
  • Network infrastructure
  • Data Management (Data platform, open data, data privacy and security, blockchains, standards)
  • Smartphone applications
  • Hardware
  • Wireless sensor networks
  • Online portal

Project summary

Destination Mid Murray is a new, smart and innovative solution to improve the liveability of the Mid Murray Region. It will create dynamic, data-driven and multi-screen user experiences that will improve the delivery of Council services and access to public data to the Mid Murray community.

Installation of information kiosks and beacons in 11 towns will achieve the following outcomes:

  • Improved liveability and vibrancy of the Mid Murray region by applying smart technology solutions to services and information
  • Improved access, equity and social connection for disengaged and remote community members to government services, information, job finding and social connection services
  • Engagement of the community in the development of the applications and their ongoing refinement and evaluation
  • Open access to real time public data to build corporate intelligence on the data and information needs of residents and visitors
  • Building links with other councils, industry, local business and community organisations
  • Creating jobs and building a skilled workforce especially for young people in Mannum, Morgan and within the region
  • Developing partnerships to increase the region’s capacity to deliver major projects

The challenge

Mid Murray Council has limited digital connectivity to their community and digital tourism experiences in the Mid Murray are limited and rudimentary. The integration of digital technology into new regional tourism products will significantly contribute to the 40% growth target in the region’s tourism industry. A specialist app will provide a range of features to the users for experiential tourism experiences. The resulting economic benefits will improve the liveability of the region.

The technologies used in providing information kiosks and beacons are new to Council and the region. The expectation from city visitors to have access to technologies that are available in their homes, at tourist destinations is increasing. Destination Mid Murray will transform Mid Murray into a smart Council that will be an exemplar in the Riverland and Murray River Lakes; Coorong Tourism Regions. Critical to the delivery of information kiosks and beacons is high speed internet via NBN which is available in the region and a significant resource to this project.

System integrators will transform council services to an online platform which will include feedback options, payments, job finding, appointment booking, registration, way finder, interactive education tools, internet, advertising and ordering. The option to access customer service via videoconferencing will also be explored.

Solution

Smart self-service kiosks are a cost-effective way to deliver services and to communicate with the public on a range of issues. They can be the mainstay of service delivery – such as job-finding – or they can provide an economical way of supplying information and services to remote areas of the community. They have the ability to increase service to a 24 hour capacity and to provide access to citizens who do not have internet access. Government agencies can benefit from increased efficiency, increased return on investment and improved reporting by implementing smart self-service solutions.

Mid Murray residents have significantly lower internet access at home (53% of the population) compared to the rest of South Australia (71%) and Australia (74%). Mid Murray towns have some of the most disadvantaged communities in Australia, and lie within the lowest 12th percentile for socio and economic disadvantage.

Destination Mid Murray will bridge the ‘digital divide’ and provide access and equity of service to disadvantaged members of the community who don’t have access to the internet or have limited means to travel long distances to access services.

This project will also enable savvy visitors from the city to access smart technologies to have smart, new experiential tourism experiences enhancing repeat visitation, creating a strong and viable regional economy. Tourism is one of the most significant economic drivers for regions along the Murray River. It accounts for 15% of the Murraylands region workforce and 11% of the region’s economy. Mid Murray Council ranks in the top 50% of councils in Australia for reliance on tourism to contribute to its economy.

Benefits

The economic benefit to the region from Destination Mid Murray would be nearly $1M per annum. Importantly this economic benefit will be realised region-wide, supporting very small communities and will result in expansion of existing businesses, new businesses and local jobs in tourism and other related industries.

Around 242,000 visits were made to the region in 2015. If Destination Mid Murray results in only a 5% increase in visitors, an additional 12,100 visitors will come to the region and spend money. The average spend by visitors who stay overnight is $167 and a 5% increase in overnight visitors resulting from this project (12,000) would create a flow-on economic benefit of more than $2M. Shopping/food represents 50% of visitor expenditure and will increase the flow-on economic output from this project by a further $1M. This would result in around 10 new jobs in food and retail outlets.

The project will deliver the following economic, social and environmental benefits beyond the project period:

  • Government services are accessible by more people – including disadvantaged and marginalised by geography and demography
  • Increased efficiency in delivery services
  • Greater sense of community pride and engagement
  • Increased community confidence of government policy and decision-making
  • Return on investment – new smart tourism products will have significant flow on economic benefits (see above)
  • Government services are accessible 24/7
  • Increased ability to engage with neighbouring councils and corporate partners to further enhance use of smart technologies
  • Reduced reliance on cars to access services – reduction in carbon emissions
  • Improve reporting – paperless and energy efficient
  • Reduce wait times – online information is accessible 24/7
  • Improve regulation, streamlined service delivery and turnaround - single portal for input and receipt of resident information.

The tourism user app developed for this project, accessible via beacon will have the potential to generate revenue. As part of the project implementation process, corporate investors such as local tour operators and service providers will be engaged to include product or service information connecting to the app platform. This investment is estimated at $15,000 by December 2018.

Just as smart beacons enable consumers to become more attuned to their location, they can also give Council new insight into the real- life behaviour of their community members and visitors. As beacon technology rolls out, Mid Murray Council can see how Search Ads and Local Ads affect access to their services and visitors to the region.

Lessons learned

Installation of the kiosk hardware to remote locations remains the logistical challenge of this project and has taken greater time than expected. Fabrication of the security casings to protect the kiosk hardware has occurred overseas and has resulted in delays in their delivery.

Mid Murray region is characterised by a number of very small communities and engaging tradesmen to commit to a small job in towns that are in some cases an hour’s drive from each other has caused a number of delays. To improve time and cost efficiencies, Council have opted to stagger the installation process, working at one location, i.e. Mannum, to get everything completed and then imaged to the other sites.

An additional time delay has occurred in the installation of the hardware at Morgan. The original building that was considered for the kiosk, the Station Masters House is Heritage Listed. This has caused a number of complications and additional time has been required to work through heritage requirements, lease agreements and developing options for the site of kiosk installation.

Project evaluation has been an important component of the project. RDA Murraylands and Riverland in collaboration with Mid Murray Council are conducting the evaluation of the project. An evaluation plan has been developed and a review of project progress has occurred in December 2018 and February 2019. The research evaluation approach enables findings to be incorporated into the project implementation stage to enhance remaining project outcomes. Four key outcomes that have improved project delivery have been reported to date.

Outcomes

A number of positive and unexpected outcomes have been realised through the review process. The project evaluation process has highlighted the need for additional marketing and signage of the project which Council has completed at their own expense.

Free public Wi-Fi across the region is an outcome of the project and bulk purchasing of hardware has seen cost efficiencies. Additional training for customer service staff due to turnover has also occurred.

Contact details

Name: Darren Arbon
Phone: 08 8569 0100
Email: aloechel@mid-murray.sa.gov.au