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Author's Opinion

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Monday, 28 June 2010 14:28

NBN Co's Wii based e-health trial is a promotional masterstroke


As a promotional exercise for the National Broadband Network, NBN Co, and the benefits of broadband in general, NBN's Co's trial of 'tele-therapy' for stroke victims is a masterstroke that puts the Government's $16m NBN promotional campaign in the shade.

The trial has all the right ingredients to gain wide exposure:
- It is highly telegenic: stroke victims can be shown undergoing their Nintendo Wii-based treatment and being remotely monitored via an '"NBN-like' broadband network;
- Almost every member of the community will be able to relate to some aspect of the trial: the young to the gaming aspect; older-people who almost certain know a friend or family member who has suffered a stroke; people in rural areas who struggle with their remoteness;
- It's funded by an act of philanthropy that in and of itself is newsworthy: a board member of Neuroscience Australia donates $2m to the project and related research. But when that board member is the CEO of NBN Co and the $2m is his annual salary this throws the spotlight of publicity firmly on NBN Co and its key role in the National Broadband Network.

Meanwhile the Federal Government has embarked on its own NBN promotion campaign with a dedicated web site (www.nbn.gov.au) and a series of flashy TV ads promoting the overall potential benefits of the NBN and a couple of specific application areas: health and education. The whole lot reportedly has a $16m budget.


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Is it money well spent? I very much doubt it. TV ads are a horrendously expensive way of reaching a potential market. They almost certainly provide a return on investment or companies would not use them. But most of them are aimed at producing a specific, and generally immediate response in their target market to go out and buy something.

The NBN ads seek to communicate non-specific benefits that will not be realised for several years. They don't seek to spur viewers to any specific action, now or in the future: simply to give them a warm and fuzzy feeling about the NBN.

Over in Singapore there Government there too is building an NBN and, like the Australian Government, wants to communicate the potential benefits to the country's citizens (arguably this is not such a high priority as the Singapore Government is far less likely to be voted out of office than its Australian counterpart!)

I don't know if TV commercials are part of the Singapore Government's awareness raising campaign, but I do know it has an initiative that makes the NBN and its potential benefits much more real by giving citizens the opportunity to experience these directly.

The Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) has opened the Infocomm Experience Centre (iExperience), "to showcase possibilities and benefits of Next Generation services to the public and businesses."


It's a 435 square metre exhibition space in the heart of Singapore with interactive exhibits to demonstrate how the NBN will enhance living, working, learning and interacting that "aims to give every visitor a personal experience to discover new possibilities enabled by Next Gen infocomm services."

According to IDA CEO, Ronnie Tay: "Visitors'¦can try out the many exhibits there'¦The range of engaging and interactive exhibits on display relates closely to our daily lives, in the way we live, work, learn and interact. Visitors will get a good sense of the exciting Next Generation services they can look forward to, now and in the future."

Of course, the small island nation of Singapore has one huge advantage over Australia: it can reasonably confident that this one centre is accessible to all its citizens, and certainly anyone with any interest can easily make a visit to the centre.

In Australia the only way to stage accessible demonstrations of NBN applications would be to make them mobile: put them on a bus and take them around the country. I'm not sure of either the economic or technical practicality of such a ploy, but I do recall a senior NICTA executive claiming that, given $16m he could send several NBN demo buses trundling around Australia.

This, or some more high profile trial applications would have to be more effective than expensive TV airtime.



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