OPINION

How the democratisation of technology roles paints a bright future for rural and remote Australia

NEW ERA: Recognition of the talent in the regions is great for the technology industry and the rest of Australia. Picture: Shutterstock
NEW ERA: Recognition of the talent in the regions is great for the technology industry and the rest of Australia. Picture: Shutterstock

Beyond their boundless beauty, regional and rural communities provide immense contributions to Australia's economy.

Approximately 67 per cent of the value of Australia's exports comes from regional, rural and remote areas - agriculture alone contributes $50 billion to our GDP.

Despite this, one sector has long been neglected and grossly underserved by the available talent in these regions: technology.

Australia has long struggled to provide suitable infrastructure - or even just decent broadband - to support high-bandwidth technology jobs in these areas, meaning these jobs have historically been largely the exclusive property of Australia's major cities.

Thankfully, this is all beginning to change.

As the government and industry seek to address the growing IT skills shortage, exasperated by the pandemic, and look to diversify regional and rural economies, organisations will be on a tech hiring spree.

According to a 2021 SalesForce report, Australia will need 156,000 more digital technology workers by 2025 - equivalent to one in four jobs created during that period.

While many are turning to our largest capitals in hopes of nurturing the next Steve Jobs, I believe Australia's smaller cities and regional hubs have an opportunity to fulfil the digital skills gap.

Despite a challenging two years, the pandemic has revolutionised the way we approach work and proven it is absolutely possible to do a number of computer-based jobs from the comfort and safety of our homes. It's opened the floodgates to previously "inaccessible" talent, as more organisations realise a lot of work can be done, quite literally, anywhere.

As a software company based in Canberra, Instaclustr has long recognised this opportunity.

Out of the dozen Australian vacancies we are currently advertising several are local to us, but a number of others are remote.

Now, a number of other companies are democratising access to jobs in the industry by removing location-based criteria.

Tech giant Atlassian, along with its 7500 staff, has well and truly committed to work-from-home life.

Similarly, $40 billion Australian startup Canva is empowering its team to work from anywhere.

What does this mean for the nation?

In rural and remote Australian communities, unemployment is by and large greater, IT and other jobs are lacking and individuals tend to face higher job insecurity and inequality altogether.

According to a live search of New South Wales-based technology jobs on Hays, 146 roles are available in Sydney's CBD, compared to a miniscule two roles in regional NSW.

This is at odds with the pandemic work trends, where individuals have been shown that a job in technology does not necessitate they leave their community in exchange for life in the "big smoke".

The need for companies to invest in talent from any geographical location is more prominent.

It should feel almost urgent for many organisations who are feeling the pressure to speed up their digital transformation journeys to keep up with competitors and industries as a whole.

Hopefully, this urgency will put positive pressure on organisations to invest in a pool of talent that may have been harder to reach previously, or simply put in the too hard basket.

At Instaclustr, we remain committed to boosting our nation's job ready skills in the IT sector. In partnership with the University of Canberra, rural or remotely located Australians have the opportunity to take on remote learning in open source software through training and certification.

Aside from growing the talent pool through this partnership, we're also connecting and nurturing like-minded people passionate about open source software across Australia.

Like our current vacancies, we are committed to providing opportunities to Australians living outside of Sydney and Melbourne and foresee remote roles growing over time.

As the number of technology roles available to remote and rural Australians proliferates, we are likely to see a greater interest in careers in technology.

In time, this will provide a greater variety of skills and capabilities, diversifying the workforce and the local economy - which is a win for the regions, for our technology industry, and ultimately, a win for the rest of Australia.

Peter Lilley is chief executive of Canberra-based softwarecompany Instaclustr.

This story How the democratisation of technology roles paints a bright future for rural and remote Australia first appeared on The Canberra Times.