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Thursday, 05 May 2011 19:10

In search of the elusive National Digital Economy Strategy


The Government is planning to release at the end of May a National Digital Economy strategy, but this fact seems to have escaped iiNet. It has told the House of Reps NBN enquiry that such a strategy should be a priority. This does not surprise us: we have previously commented that the promotion of what should be a major project has been very low key.

In March communications minister Stephen Conroy and prime minster, Julia Gillard, chose a retail store in Perth to announce that they would release, at the end of May, a National Digital Economy Strategy.

They promised that: "The National Digital Economy Strategy will provide the framework that will enable industry and business to build on and take full advantage of this world class infrastructure [the NBN]."

We suggested that this was rather a low key announcement for such a major initiative, but this was refuted by Conroy's office. However iiNet seems not to be aware of it: it has told the House of Reps enquiry into the NBN that such a strategy should be a priority.

CFO David Buckingham told the House Standing Committee on Infrastructure and Communications' Inquiry into the role and potential of the National Broadband Network hearing in Perth today: "We are of the opinion that the missing component in the [NBN] debate is a National online or digital economy strategy. We would like to see this debate switching fast to fundamental questions, like: Where does Australia wish to be in a global digital economy? Or does Australia want to create jobs, improve domestic productivity, increase exports and advance its competitive position in a global digital economy?"

He added: "iiNet is a strong supporter of the NBN but we also of the opinion that a National Online Strategy should be a matter of priority that should be developed in order to give the NBN, government agencies and the economy at large, purpose and direction."

If the National Digital Strategy lives up to the Government's promises on schedule and content, iiNet's wishes should be fulfilled very soon. When it announced the end of May release date the Government said: "The National Digital Economy Strategy will map the key areas of focus and outline programs that will allow Australian families, not-for-profits and small and medium businesses to enjoy the economic and social benefits that the NBN can deliver'¦The National Digital Economy Strategy will provide the framework that will enable industry and business to build on and take full advantage of this world class infrastructure."

Plans for the strategy were revealed by Conroy to an AIIA meeting in mid 2010 at which he said "The infrastructure we are building will transform the economy and we need to be in a position to capitalise on the opportunity this presents. The Government will drive this transformation through the promotion of smart infrastructure; and the delivery of e-Government services, including in the areas of health, education and aged care. To achieve this, the Government will release a long-term Digital Economy Strategy to maximise the benefits of an NBN enabled society." We eagerly await its unveiling.


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