Local Government Magazine

Gigatown Timaru highly commended

At the 2015 LGNZ EXCELLENCE Awards.

Fulton Hogan EXCELLENCE Award for Community Impact.

Highly commended: Timaru District Council (Aoraki Development Business and Tourism) – Gigatown Timaru

Timaru set out to make the best use of the high-profile national Gigatown competition with a successful initiative that increased the uptake of ultra-fast broadband in the area.

The aim was to promote Timaru as a digitally savvy city, using the competition to highlight this objective and gain community buy-in. Awards judges praised the great community involvement in the initiative run by Aoraki Development Business and Tourism (ADBT) and the way it has become a catalyst for “broader, faster and deeper uptake of digital technology in the area”.

ADBT worked tirelessly to gain public engagement, including holding five well-attended public meetings, visiting every school and over 100 businesses, and reaching tens of thousands of people through social media.

The many education, community, promotion and digital enablement initiatives ranged from quizzes and competitions to a billboard campaign, innovation expo, the development of specific digital strategies and the creation of a hashtag icon to unite the community in a common vision. Around 1500 of the symbols were displayed in windows and a large hashtag took pride of place in the town centre.

Schemes for businesses included digital training workshops, networking events and case study videos on how faster internet can improve business. The campaign also inspired more than 50,000 tweets and over 20,000 Facebook comments from people sharing why Timaru is a great place to live.

The scheme increased uptake of ultra-fast broadband in Timaru to 13 percent, boosting it to the fourth highest rate of broadband uptake in the country. While Timaru did not win the competition, it achieved the significant success of being among five national finalists.

LGNZ president Lawrence Yule said, “This is an excellent example of a council initiating district-wide community engagement, using a variety of techniques, which resulted in significantly increased understanding of the benefits of ultra-fast broadband.”

This article was first published in the August 2015 issue of NZ Local Government Magazine.

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