Thursday, July 25, 2013

Insights into regional competitiveness

Australian Bureau of Statistics is a great source of economic statistics but anyone looking for small area data have to work very hard to find and collate anything of relevance from vast collections of information available from the Bureau. An alternative source of economic statistics for small areas are private companies however, the cost of that information is rather prohibitive. But things are changing. Firstly, earlier this year ABS started to publish experimental time series compilation of statistics for Local Government Areas (LGA) and just last month the Regional Australia Institute launched a very comprehensive, free, online tool with regional economic assessments called [In]Sight.

[In]Sight is an online index and interactive map tracking the competitiveness of Australia’s 560 LGA and 55 Regional Development Australia (RDA) regions. The measure is based on international competitiveness indices developed by the World Economic Forum and European Union, but specifically tailored to reflect the issues that matter to regional Australia. [In]Sight consists of 59 measurable indicators of competitiveness within ten themes:

  • Institutions: Administration support for regional development
  • Infrastructure and Essential Services: Access to infrastructure, transport and services
  • Economic Fundamentals: The region’s general economic climate
  • Human Capital: The capabilities and skills of a region’s workforce
  • Labour Market Efficiency: Use of the potential regional workforce by the economy
  • Technological Readiness: Access and utilisation of new technologies
  • Business Sophistication: Capacity of business to respond to competitive pressures
  • Innovation: Availability of new approaches and ideas
  • Market size: The size of the local economy
  • Natural Resources: Availability and use of natural resources

Within each theme, a unique set of measurable indicators capture the economic drivers that determine long term competitiveness of the region.

The amount of available information is a bit overwhelming at first and the format the information is presented in (ie. index values and values representing comparative ranking “out of 560”) makes it a bit hard to interpret when profiling individual regions but once you grasp the concepts, and have a clear point of reference to compare to, [In]Sight offers a very comprehensive, single source perspective on the region of interest. Uses of that information will be many and across many different disciplines - from identifying disadvantaged regions for federal and state support, to selecting favourable locations to settle, or to locate a business, or prioritise for marketing opportunities.

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