A new report looks at how Queensland councils have responded to new opportunities presented by the shift to a digital economy.

The latest LGAQ Digital Productivity Report says it has been a somewhat awkward transition.

The report found local councils in Queensland had made big improvements to the way they manage the huge amount of information they collect and are looking for new opportunities to use data to improve their businesses. 

However, it also found significant barriers to gains in digital productivity, including a lack of good network infrastructure and a digital skills shortage. 

It concludes that councils need to work on upgrading digital skills, lobby for better connectivity and raise awareness about existing connectivity and technologies. 

“Only 55 percent of councils reported their community having access to high quality internet in their local areas, up only eight percent when first surveyed in 2013,” the report said. 

“A lack of skilled workers is also a growing concern with 75 percent of councils agreeing there is a skills shortage for the digital economy.”

However, the uptake of social media as a means of community engagement has improved markedly over the past four years.

The report found that an overwhelming majority of councils regularly used social media to engage with their communities, while more than a quarter were using drone technology to manage assets. 

There was also an embrace of the notion of data collection and analysis being key to unlocking productivity gains in the future. 

Nearly half of councils were actively deploying information and data to help increase productivity and efficiency. 

Most are also in favour of “open data” programs as a means of sharing information they hold with the community. 

The Local Government Association of Queensland says it will use the report to ensure councils take a leadership role in ensuring their communities got the most out of the digital economy. 

A survey of Queensland councils as part of the report found that most councils are in favour of an “open data” environment where they would share their data with the wider community to help find new ways to meet business and economic challenges. 

The report tracks how councils are performing in regard to the digital economy and analyses trends in the use of new and emerging technologies in local government. 

Despite the increasing awareness among councils of the productivity benefits they can derive from the digital economy, the report contains some concerning findings about the extent of connectivity in the community and the supply of a skilled workforce. 

About 84 percent of councils agree that they have a role to foster and support local businesses and residents participate in the digital economy despite this not being a traditional area of responsibility. This is up from 56% in the 2015 report.   

The report was developed in partnership with GWI and with assistance from the Telstra-Local Buy Industry Development Fund. 

The Digital Productivity Report is accessible here.