THE National Broadband Network (NBN) could open up a whole new world to Shellharbour City's small to medium businesses.
Regional Development Australia Illawarra (RDAI) and Shellharbour, Kiama and Wollongong councils will host workshops on the high-speed broadband technology to get input from businesses, industries, community groups and government representatives to develop a digital strategy to capitalise on the opportunities provided by the NBN.
These free events will be held in Kiama, Wollongong and Shellharbour.
The convener is David Bartlett, who has extensive experience in the information and communication technology fields, including as state minister for Innovation, Science and Technology and the Tasmanian premier.
"This workshop will be stimulating and informative, and explore questions about what the opportunities, priorities and barriers could be for our community members," council economic development officer Trevor James said.
Last March, it was announced that work would begin by mid-2015 to extend the fibre network to more than 50 new Illawarra suburbs. However, Albion Park, Albion Park Rail and Oak Flats missed out.
Richard Price, who runs a home-based business in Lake Illawarra, builds and develops websites for small to medium businesses.
He has run seminars for small business owners on how to use the internet to grow their business.
Mr Price said businesses needed more encouragement to go online.
"The thing I noticed was that businesses just aren't aware of once they have a website or an online presence, how they can connect with their specific audience," the 47-year-old said.
"There's more to being online than creating a website or Facebook page. It's one thing to have it, but another entirely to have it be effective."
Mr Price said the NBN would allow local businesses to provide richer and more effective content online.
"We've become a very impatient society; we want things and we want them now," he said.
"Now, to save costs, you limit the amount of videos and other content you put on there, which limits the amount of interaction you can have with customers.
"The NBN gets rid of these limitations; you can use a whole new way to engage via multimedia formats. Then the only limitation becomes your imagination and your budget."
The co-chairman of RDAI's Broadband/ICT Sub-Committee Daniel Rowan said the arrival of NBN in the Illawarra was significant in the region's ability to interact with the rest of the world.
"We all need to think of ways we can take the best possible advantage of the NBN and help shape our region to become a leader in the field of e-commerce, and in so doing capitalise on a potentially lucrative industry sector," he said.
The Shellharbour workshop takes place at 9.45am to 3pm on February 28 at The Links Function Room, Shell Cove. Bookings are essential; call 4221 6030.