Cat Matson’s fresh digital agenda

James Riley
Editorial Director

It’s amazing how fast technology can change in five years. Back in 2012 when Brisbane Council released its first Digital Brisbane strategy, it was before Uber had arrived and conversations about tech were about how it impact affect businesses.

Fast forward to 2017 and the thought of using digital tech – both personally and commercially – is no longer in question. It’s more about how the technology can be taken advantage of.

This is the reason why Brisbane chief digital officer Cat Matson said it was time Brisbane Council refreshed its strategy, and as a result has released Digital Brisbane 2.0. The new plan outlines the city’s digital transformation agenda, with focus on small to medium businesses, entrepreneurs and startups, and residents.

“In our first round of community consultation we asked the question does Brisbane still need a digital strategy and the answer was yes in order to enable entire businesses – not to just prescribe all the digital stuff – it was more about how do we empower people in their lives to navigate this global economy, and to be digitally enabled in this world that we now live in,” she said.

  • Some specific initiatives of the strategy include:
  • A grant program that builds on the existing Lord Mayor’s Budding Entrepreneurs Program;
  • A digital version of the Brisbane Greeters program to enable visitors and residents to explore Brisbane through their smart device;
  • A digital festival developed in partnership with Brisbane’s digital businesses and industries; and
  • An accessibility app to assist people with physical or mental impediments navigate Brisbane

This will build on Brisbane’s work to date, which Brisbane Marketing boasts has provided grants to 75 early-stage entrepreneurs; created The Capital, an incubator-coworking space that currently houses 100 startups; taught 3,500 children to code; and support to 1,200 small business owners to use digital technologies.

According to Ms Matson, Digital Strategy 2.0 exemplifies how the role of government has also changed over the years.

“In the past people have assumed that government’s role was to provide, regulate and to fund projects,” Ms Matson said.

“But now in a digital age where entrepreneurs or small businesses can fulfil the need faster, we recognise council has three digital roles: facilitator, partner and advocate.”

“Those roles are contextual. The role of council in a digital strategy is dependent on each different we’re looking at. The mostly important is to fill the gap the market is not looking after,” she said.

“Modern councils, particularly such as the size as Brisbane, have an incredible opportunity and an incredible role to play as a facilitator. How do we bring everyone together? How do curate the best ideas? How do we empower the best ideas to make the city the best it can be?”

As for how the council plans to measure the success of its strategy over the next few years, Ms Matson said it will be determined by examining engagement levels with businesses, as well as looking at how well Brisbane ranks on the Innovation Cities Index.

The launch of Brisbane Digital 2.0 comes as the Queensland Government continues to ramp up its efforts of supporting industry in “innovation and collaboration” under its four-year $420 million Advance Queensland initiative.

But as for how close the local council and the state government works together to what appears to be the same goal, Ms Matson said council and government work closely together “where there is a need”, emphasising that a lot of Digital Strategy 2.0 is “very grassroots city level” and not in the domain of the state government.

Brisbane Marketing is the economic development board promoting and shaping Brisbane as a destination of choice to invest, work, study, visit and live. This article is part of a series designed to examine Brisbane’s growing reputation as a progressive and globally connected economy.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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