Weaknesses in every economy have been thrown into stark relief by the pandemic – Tasmania is no exception.
It is no secret Tasmania had one of the strongest-performing economies before the health outbreak, driven largely in part by a strong visitor economy. While the tourism industry will return, in a muted capacity, as the virus gets under control in other states, but how long it takes to return to pre-pandemic levels is the million-dollar question.
Tasmania’s response to COVID-19 and particularly the response from Premier Peter Gutwein has largely been hailed. Still, it has also had its fair share of criticism, particularly as the state’s borders continue to be closed, while Victoria battles a deadly second wave. However, the state’s response could have been better if our ICT systems had been stronger, an inquiry has heard.
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Systems are in place on the mainland that helps with the spread of communication. These systems are not in place in Tasmania, the inquiry heard, which hindered how information disseminated. Tasmania’s ICT systems require an upgrade, and it all starts by tackling the issues of device access and mobile black spots. The state’s disadvantaged communities report that the cost of devices, and access to associated systems, such as the internet is cost-prohibitive. That issue was highlighted when employees and students pivoted to work from home – not everyone had easy access to devices.
Addressing the ICT gap will have multiple flow-on effects for Tasmanians – and it’s something that needs addressing now.
Increasing the capacity of the state’s ICT systems will open up new job opportunities for Tasmanians, especially if the flexible work-from-home environment stays. It will mean the physical distance of Tasmania to national and international jobs will disappear. Improving access to devices and reliable internet for disadvantaged communities will improve education, as it will address the current two-speed economy that exists – between students who do and those who don’t have devices.
There are clear benefits to dealing with this situation head-on – but the ball is in the government’s court.