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Unlocking the competitiveness of our regions
23 July 2013
The Regional Australia Institute (RAI) works with communities through forums, research and digital and social media so that we can hear and understand people’s views.
That each of Australia’s regions – whether they be urban, rural or remote – are equipped with the knowledge, tools and relationships they need to make informed decisions is pivotal to our strength and prosperity as a nation.
Prime Minster Kevin Rudd recently used his first major speech since returning to the top job in June to highlight the need for competitiveness to become a major part of the national policy agenda.
It was rather timely therefore, that just prior to this, the RAI released [In]Sight, Australia’s first regional competitiveness index. [In]Sight ranks regions across 10+ themes and 59 indicators of sustainable growth, including employment, infrastructure, small business presence and industry investment.
[In]Sight provides us with more knowledge than we have ever before had at our disposal to see where and how our regions can advance their productivity, sustainability and prosperity.
But while [In]Sight complements a national productivity agenda, there is much more to it.
It is a resource designed to be accessed by all Australians – from different levels of government to business owners, teachers, health workers, young, singles, retirees and families – to enable them to identify the opportunities at their fingertips.
Via an online index and interactive map, [In]Sight puts the power to examine all of the areas that determine quality of life, including access to education and health care, firmly in the hands of the communities.
For example, [In]Sight tells us that across Australia’s 55 Regional Development Australia (RDA) regions, the top performing areas for access to hospital services include Brisbane at number one, Melbourne at number two and Adelaide at number five. But, perhaps somewhat unexpectedly, the Grampians come in at number three, Loddon Mallee at nine and Far North Queensland and the Torres Strait at number 10.
It also reveals that the Adelaide Hills and Mackay Isaac Whitsunday regions rank number one and four in terms of early childhood performance; with low levels of children considered to be developmentally vulnerable.
And, in terms of human capital, the Sunshine Coast, the Limestone Coast and Hunter region rank in the top ten for the level of English proficiency in their populations, performing strongly right alongside metropolitan centres.
Already from [In]Sight we have learned that reducing the disparities in human capital, access to new technologies and investment in research and development across Australia’s regions will be critical to national economic growth.
For those planning or starting young families, [In]Sight can unlock the full picture on how child-friendly a region’s infrastructure and service provision is.
For people in business, it will provide an accurate picture of the market size, workforce participation and the economic fundamentals of a region as well as what local government assistance for business exists.
The social applications for the RAI’s research are endless.
In rural and remote areas of Australia where isolation can be a major challenge, [In]Sight can profile a community’s access to broadband, the youth unemployment rate and access to education and GP services – it can set the frame within which an area lobbies for improvements or promotes its strengths.
If you’re curious about how your region stacks up, or want to test your own instincts about what helps to make a community thrive, jump on [In]Sight: http://insight.regionalaustralia.org.au/
Independent and informed by both research and ongoing dialogue with the community, the Regional Australia Institute develops policy and advocates for change to build a stronger economy and better quality of life in regional Australia – for the benefit of all Australians.