The State Government is to be applauded for its newly-announced plan for Adelaide to become Australia’s first ‘Gigcity’.
Adelaide is the first international city to join the growing US Ignite Smart Gigabit Communities Program, creating new opportunities for innovative businesses to collaborate and share information with 15 other US Ignite communities.
The program ultimately will offer businesses within Adelaide’s innovation precincts with high-speed internet that is up to 100 times the national average, and 10 times the download speed of the NBN.
This is great news. But we could make it even better by establishing a major, purpose-built technology precinct in the heart of the Adelaide CBD.
Gigcity Adelaide will connect our far-flung technology precincts, such as Technology Park at Mawson Lakes, Techport at Osborne and the Tonsley Innovation Precinct. But having a significant central technology hub in the city of Adelaide would demonstrate a real commitment to becoming Australia’s technology capital.
The Royal Adelaide Hospital site would be perfect for this purpose.
As they have discovered in San Francisco, people want to work in the CBD. All of the big tech firms are moving from Silicon Valley, Mountain View and Palo Alto and establishing themselves in downtown San Francisco. That’s where the people want to live and work. They don’t want to commute 50 minutes to the Valley or make the bus journey back and forth each day. SF is where it’s at – the best real estate, cafes, the bars, the restaurants, the nightlife, the culture.
And so it could be with Adelaide.
If we want to attract smart tech people from interstate and overseas, and retain our own state-produced tech talent, we need to have a substantial tech presence in Adelaide city.
Gigcity Adelaide’s Technology Precinct
To that end, I think that we should redevelop the old Royal Adelaide Hospital as Adelaide’s new ‘Technology Precinct’ (we’d obviously come up with a funky new name).
The State Government should actively court major international technology businesses to become ‘anchor’ tenants of the new precinct – Hewlett-Packard already has a significant presence in Adelaide and would be a great foundation tenant.
We should also lobby hard to have a big name like Microsoft, Cisco, Samsung, Yahoo! or Google establish a presence in the technology precinct – with appropriate concessions. It’s far cheaper to do business in Adelaide than it is in Sydney, so let’s sell the benefits to these multinationals.
Don’t think it can be done? Take a look at how the state of Utah in the US became the next Silicon Valley, or how Portland, Oregon became ‘Silicon Forest’, or how our own sister city Austin, Texas became ‘Silicon Hills’. Each of these comparatively minor cities in the US context are home to some of the biggest tech names.
With a couple of major international tenants locked in, and perhaps an Australian unicorn-aspirant or two (think: Atlassian, Campaign Monitor, BigCommerce, Canva, Freelancer.com), fill the rest of the space with tech-focused small-to-medium enterprises and startups.
Throw in some shared working spaces, innovation incubators, venture capital firms, R&D labs, technology advisory firms (eg. Deloitte). Offer free fixed and wireless internet access to all and sundry. Build the tram extension along North Terrace, and provide appropriate access/egress into the neighbouring education precinct – and you have the foundation of a whole new industry for South Australia.
Gigcity is a great idea, and it would be best if it was ‘in the city’.