A $15.45 million Federal Government contract to set up community technology centres in remote NSW communities will be put up for tender within the next three months, presenting lucrative opportunities for resellers.
The 55 centres are being established in rural communities with populations of under 3000 people to provide cost-effective access to the Internet and e-mail. According to the NSW Minister for IT, Kim Yeadon, they will enable country businesses to expand and encourage them to venture into e-commerce. Computer education possibilities are also being explored.
"This plan will help deliver better infrastructure and services to small country communities in regions such as the far west, North Coast, South Coast and Northern Tablelands," said NSW Premier, Bob Carr. "It will also allow businesses to expand and join the e-commerce revolution."
The NSW Department of IT and Management said that at this stage they could not give specific details on how the centres would operate or how the project would be broken down. However, a spokesperson said that they will be calling on hardware and software providers to fit out the centres, as well as network integrators to set up the cabling and access.
The four-year contract also provides opportunities for IT educators and service and support companies as each centre will have a full-time coordinator trained to assist locals in setting up Web sites and to offer advice on e-business management. This will be backed up by a central, regional-based service and support centre.
We are looking for "innovative and creative solutions" to get the rollout done in the most cost-effective manner, said a spokesperson for the NSW Department of IT and Management. An understanding of the needs of rural communities is considered a priority and the Government is keen to see the project generate local employment.
The business plans are expected to be finalised over the next three months, after which the contract will be put up for tender. The Government hopes to have the centres operational by the end of the 2000.