A group of councils in Queensland's central west, covering one-fifth of the area of Queensland, is rolling out a free Wi-Fi network to boost visitor numbers and assist local business operators in the region.
The proposed Outback Telegraph involves the mayors of seven Central West councils, comprising the Remote Area Planning and Development Board (RAPAD).
The first stage of the Outback Telegraph was switched on by Winton Shire Council in June. When the full network is up and running it will be, in total council area, the biggest single public Wi-Fi network in Australia.
The Queensland Government has contributed $15,000 to the pilot, and Winton Shire Council is also contributing. RAPAD will fund the extension of the Outback Telegraph smart tourism platform to all key centres in the region, reaching some of the most remote communities in the state.
The next stage of the regional Wi-Fi network will add more locations, including Longreach, Barcaldine and Windorah.
A single sign-on for the Central West will mean that visitors won’t have to re-enter their details as they move around. Visitors will be able to connect to the network through the Outback Telegraph app, which will be available from Google and Apple. The mobile app can also interact with smart beacons placed around town, allowing the user to access additional information about local businesses, receive a coupon or special offer; and guide them on discovery walks.
Mayor Lenton said Winton Shire Council is collecting tourism statistics from the free Wi-Fi to show how visitors are moving through the region and where they are and are not stopping.
“We can build stronger businesses with this data. Winton has a rich history that includes the Great Shearers’ Strike, Banjo Patterson’s Waltzing Matilda, Qantas, and a dinosaur stampede, and also opal fields and a wide variety of animals and bird life in the area," he said.
“Free Wi-Fi can help us share our stories, history and visitor experiences on social channels to entice more tourists and encourage them to stay longer once they’re here,” he said.
RAPAD is planning a ‘hacking’ event for the Central West to come up with ideas leveraging the regional Wi-Fi, app and beacons.