Australian product provides new window on local economic performance

Melbourne-based firm .id (informed decisions) have just launched economy.id, an online economic profile to “describe, explore and promote” local economies.

economy.id joins the .id stable of profiles and other web-based programs, including profile.id, atlas.id, forecast.id and housing.id. .id’s main client base is local government, with over 180 councils and regional organisations of councils across Australia using one or more .id product. However the beneficiaries of economy.id and the company’s other products are not just councillors and local government staff, as most councils also make these products available online for local residents, businesses, community organisations and others to use (click here for an overview of .id’s products).

economy.id (which so far can be viewed for Penrith City Council in NSW, the City of Monash in Victoria and the City of Joondalup in WA) has a deceptively simple structure. It sets out to answer questions in two key sections called “our economy”, focused on economic characteristics and performance and “our resources”, which concentrates on profiling the resident workforce as well as the labour force and key local infrastructure.

econidcapture1The questions include, for example, “what is the size of the local economy?”, “how is the local economy performing?” and “what are the local labour force characteristics?”. These questions economy.id attempts to answer through a series of accessible tables, graphs and thematic maps – and whilst the focus is on the local, most tables and graphs provide comparisons to relevant metropolitan and state level benchmarks.

Like the company’s other products, economy.id is hosted on the .id server, but councils and other clients can customise the profile’s appearance, incorporating their logos and linking it to their own websites. This approach is consistent with .id’s other products and the company has largely succeeded in maintaining a similar look and feel.

This belies the complexity involved in putting together a local economic profile, which has required the integration of a wide variety of data, including information from the census, national accounts, and other ABS data sources, DEEWR small area labour markets data and input-output modelling from REMPLAN. The latter is particularly significant for councils, providing accessible input-output modelling at the local level.

All this means that economy.id moves well beyond the parameters of .id’s “flagship” product, profile.id, which is mainly based on census data. Not surprisingly the costs are also higher, with an up-front charge of $35,000 and an annual fee of $7,500, the latter covering hosting the profile, regular updating as new data becomes available and a comprehensive training program. However, as a council staffer pointed out at the NSW launch, economy.id has the potential to deliver significant savings to councils in financial and staff resources.

econidcapture2Until now, councils interested in researching and analysing local economic performance have had to commission either academic researchers or private consultancy firms, usually on a one-off basis. Invariably this approach is very expensive and whilst the results can be and often are of a high standard, this has not always been the case. In addition the data produced has usually been static in nature and difficult to update, with limited community access, especially online.

economy.id succeeds in addressing these issues. It also provides a more consistent and higher standard of economic data available for use within council (ensuring, for example, that all reports to council use the same economic parameters and even the same graphs and tables) and in promoting the local area for investment. This information will also put councils in a much better position when negotiating with state government, federal government and the private sector.

This is not to say that economy.id is perfect. Ideally, some modules such as local infrastructure will be fleshed out with more material in future. In addition, the issues noted in the supporting information regarding data sources and quality need to be considered carefully. Whilst economy.id may not meet everyone’s requirements for local economic analysis but it will go a long way by providing a baseline of the best available and up-to-date economic data in a consistent and accessible format.

Whilst councils need to decide whether this product will meet their local needs (and, as with all web-based products, should always assess the relevant Web 2.0 risk factors discussed here), economy.id has the potential to provide great value for money. It will allow councils and others using economic information to redirect their resources away from basic number-crunching, formatting and presentation to more strategic analysis of the results.

Ultimately it will also provide a great local community resource. Local communities, businesses and organisations may well be the major beneficiaries, especially if enough councils across the country or even within a particular region adopt economy.id as their standard for local economic profiling and make it publicly available through their websites.

Disclaimer: whilst the author has no current relationship with .id, he was once involved in commissioning the company to prepare a regional profile based on the 2006 census.

This entry was posted in Employment, Growth, Infrastructure, Local Government, NGO, Planning, Statistics and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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