Conroy offers NBN cash for local governments

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Conroy offers NBN cash for local governments

Local governments in National Broadband Network serving areas have been offered the chance to apply for $375,000 in Federal Government grants over the coming weeks to fund revamps of online council services.

Communications minister Senator Stephen Conroy launched the $17.1 million program this week, which would come in addition to the more than $75 million initially announced as part of the Digital Economy strategy.

The funding would be made available individually to the eight councils governing the first mainland and Tasmania NBN release sites. After the first round of applications, due to commence in coming weeks, the grants program would be opened to other council areas in allocated NBN fibre areas.

The program would meet one of the digital economy strategy's goals, which stipulated four out of five Australians engage with government online.

The strategy, launched at the end of May, stressed the need for adoption of bandwidth-intensive applications at all levels of government.

"Actively participating in the digital economy will enable state and local governments to significantly upgrade the quality, timeliness and range of services they can deliver online," the strategy [PDF] read.

"Many of Australia's local governments lack the resource base to develop sophisticated online service offerings for their ratepayers if they had to be developed individually by each council."

The Government indicated that councils should individually partner with private sector companies to develop these services.

Eligibility for the grants and private sector partners are to be revealed in guidelines to be released shortly, though a spokesperson for the communications minister told iTnews that the partners would not be prescribed at the federal level.

The Queensland Government suggested the use of the NBN as a means of relocating state government services to regional centres in a discussion paper [PDF] released earlier this year.

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