Stephen Neate moved to the Sunshine Coast in 2000 for lifestyle and family reasons. In mid-2002 he started working part-time building the MySunshineCoast website, followed by their first Real Estate Content Management System (CMS) during 2003.

Subtle Difference is a leading edge purpose-built CMS with specific modules for the real estate industry. It currently has two full-time staff, one trainee and 2-3 part timers predominantly working remotely.

What are the operating advantages and challenges to being based on the Sunshine Coast?

As a digital business, we are not restricted or affected in the same manner as a brick and mortar (retail) style operation. One of the main advantages is a lack of need to commute as our client base is located across South East Queensland and interstate.

Not being geographically restricted for the workplace enables us to be based where the family would like to live; naturally the first choice is the Sunshine Coast.

The main challenge, directly for online software-based businesses, and indirectly a growing number of other industries, is the reliability and access to a high class of broadband. Greater stability of access (issues to do with the line maintenance) and greater capacity for both upload and download speed would allow the growth of the online software industry on the Coast, allowing this low impact (environmentally and commercially) industry to thrive.

How are you using digital technology and systems to evolve your business practices?

We are effectively a paperless office, with the exception of what is mailed to us. There is a heavy reliance on both local and Cloud-based storage and systems to manage all aspects of our businesses. As broadband becomes more reliable this reliance will grow as more systems become Cloud-based or Cloud-like.

What are the key digital innovations changing your industry sector?

Software applications for the office which streamline processes around productivity, efficiency and accountability.

Do you have sufficient access to broadband and/or WIFI facilities for operational purposes?

In the tech game you judge broadband on “it can never be too fast”. Although 100mb+ would be ideal for the next couple of years, 1gb+ will be required in the next 10-20 years. The only way to improve our direct access (for us alone) would be to relocate closer to the exchange, as distance from the exchange matters. Average speeds that we have experienced in the past five years are around 5mbps, hence we are looking at relocating shortly to get at least 15+mbps if possible.

How do you think the expanding digital economy will benefit the Sunshine Coast region for businesses, families and communities?

In every way possible! As an alternative industry to tourism and agriculture which is environmentally low/no impact, it can shape the future of businesses and working families. Encouraged as a growth industry it may also reverse the trend of youth leaving the Coast as greater opportunities (outside of low paid hospitality) will be a career path.

If the Sunshine Coast was the IT hub of Queensland we could attract thousands of employees here without the need for the parent company to locate, although that would be ideal. An influx of this type of worker and business would attract skilled staff who would also bring money into the region.

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