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Thursday, 25 August 2011 14:15

Government must do more to support NBN uptake, says Reps Committee

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A parliamentary report says much work remains to be done by Government to nurture demand for high bandwidth NBN services and foster the development of new applications that will take advantage of the NBN.

The report "Broadening the debate: Inquiry into the role and potential of the National Broadband Network" was released today by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Infrastructure and Communications.

The enquiry was initiated in November 2010 by the minister for infrastructure and transport, Anthony Albanese, who asked the Committee to inquire into the 'role and potential of the NBN'. Its 426 page report - which includes 50 pages of dissenting report from Coalition members of the committee - contains 16 recommendations, most of which call on the Government to further engender demand for NBN services and support the creation of NBN applications.

In her foreword to the report, committee chair, Sharon Bird MP said: "A key message the committee received during the inquiry was that, while the NBN will be enabling infrastructure for a range of social and economic benefits across all sectors, in order for the potential of the NBN to be maximised, further 'demand side' action is needed. Related to this, inquiry participants told the Committee that an overarching strategy is needed to outline the Government's goals for how the NBN will be used and how those goals can be delivered through demand side interventions."

Key recommendations in this regard included:
- That the Government continues to implement broadband-enabled technologies into its own services and operations as a means of improving efficiency, as well as to encourage NBN uptake and utilisation;
- That the Government continue to support strategically targeted pilot projects in cooperation with relevant industries and communities that model innovative applications of the NBN;
- That the Government consider allocating resources to each Regional Development Australia committee to allow these bodies to provide enhanced local digital economy leadership. This leadership role should include identifying regional goals and implementing related strategies and programs;
- That the Federal Government develop a comprehensive engagement strategy incorporating a range of approaches to promote the uptake of broadband and digital technologies during the NBN rollout;

CONTINUED


- That the Federal Government works in an appropriate capacity to implement a network of public access points connected to high speed NBN services in as many communities as possible;
That the Federal Government, with other organisations as appropriate, develop targeted programs for those currently disadvantaged by the digital divide to improve awareness of publicly available high-speed Internet facilities, to improve access, and to promote the development of relevant skills;
- That the Government provide continued support for organisations involved in the development of high speed broadband applications;
increased levels of research and innovation in the private sector and recognises the NBN's importance to the realisation of its innovation agenda;
- That the Government develop a strategy for the digitisation of Australia's culturally and historically significant content;
- That the Government facilitate discussions between representatives of key content industries and internet service providers to work towards an agreed framework for minimising online copyright theft;
- That the Government provide further support for digital literacy programs, based on the Broadband for Seniors kiosk model, making use of existing resources such as libraries and not-for-profit groups where possible;
- That the Government continue to support programs that equip small and medium enterprises with the knowledge and support they need to compete in the digital economy;
- That the Government develop strategies for the collection and provision of data on workforce needs in the ICT sector into the future;
- That the Government develop a long term strategy to up-skill and/or retrain the existing workforce and develop new training programs to address emerging skills gaps.

The inquiry received 252 submissions (including 17 supplementary submissions) and 42 exhibits, and held 15 public hearings around Australia,

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