Peregian Digital Hub director Chris Boden.
Peregian Digital Hub director Chris Boden.

Fired up to help business survive viral attack

FEARSOME wild flames which last September nearly wiped out the Peregian Digital Hub first sparked a gathering of minds for a technology-driven fightback called Firetech Connect.

And now a couple of the critical thinkers behind this strategic program to fast-track the commercialisation and adoption of innovative technologies to predict, prevent, fight and manage bushfire emergencies, have a more immediate challenge of helping businesses survive the coronavirus pandemic.

Firetech director Leigh Kelson and Chris Boden, who runs the Noosa Council owned hub, have shared their thoughts online about battling through this financial “nuclear winter”.

Looking to help others stay in business is Leigh Kelson.
Looking to help others stay in business is Leigh Kelson.

“In times of crisis, and I’ve been in business for a few of these things now but nothing to this level that we’re at now, the thinking of the crisis is first of all the foetal position for the first couple of days,” said Mr Kelson who was a cloud computing pioneer.

Mr Kelson said two of the thought processes of impacted local businesses might have in common are “what have we lost?” and “where to from here?”

“Very quickly you’ve got to start thinking about what have we actually got?” he said.

“We’ve got access to technologies, we’ve got to change the way that we do our distribution.”

Mr Boden said the companies he is working with at the hub in many cases were looking at a “cataclysmic employment environment”.

“Figuring out a way to survive a kind of nuclear winter is obviously the critical thing, because coming out the other end it’s going to take some time for the employment markets to pick up.

“There might be alternative job opportunities, so keeping these companies alive is absolutely crucial.”

Mr Kelson said also there has to be sharing of the load in this battle to stay afloat as traditional markets suddenly go out the door.

“It can’t be left to certain sectors, where we’re seeing the effect on retail at the moment … I think the landlords and the financiers, you know everybody’s got to share the load,” he said.

“Optimally you want to have as many businesses hunkered down … we’re going to get lean, we’re going to get mean and we’re going to come up with inventive, creative ways to do that.”

Mr Kelson said this meant coming up with alternative ways of generating revenue like selling products online and using social media.

Mr Boden said: “It’s still a dreadful situation but in terms of continuity of some semblance of civilisation, it is possible in a way with technology now that wouldn’t have been just a decade or two ago.”

He said the collapse of demand and discretionary spending short-term in the broader economy “are obviously things that you can’t wish away”.

However Mr Kelson said businesses have to look what are the opportunities that lie within these problems.

“There is potentially opportunity for businesses to bring themselves online and open new channels, open global markets for themselves,” he said.

“That’s going to take some retooling for a lot of people and I think that retooling has to happen fairly rapidly.”


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