Wednesday, 23 December 2015 12:18

IA wants a lift in our efforts to enable a 'digital' Australia Featured

Internet Australia CEO Laurie Patton Internet Australia CEO Laurie Patton

Australia’s peak body representing Internet users has called for a stepped-up national effort by government and industry to ensure Australia achieves its full potential as a digitially-enabled society.

The call from Internet Australia comes as the global body representing Internet users – the Internet Society - told the United Nations this week that further progress must be made to fully embrace a "changing digital world that knows no borders and no single decider".

The CEO of the Society, Kathy Brown, was commenting on the recent World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS+10) which she said fell short in failing to fully recognise the transnational nature of the Internet as a “borderless network of networks comprised of millions of individual networks that connect around the globe”.

Brown said the summit sought to apply national solutions to global problems, particularly those related to safety and security. “This shortfall is compounded by an unfortunate misbelief by some that cooperation only among governments is sufficient to solve issues that require the expertise and commitment of all of us,” Brown emphasised.

Internet Australia CEO Laurie Patton said the Coalition’s NBN is now put at $46-56 billion, with many experts maintaining that this significantly understates the likely real cost – and, he claimed, “confusion and disagreement rein as to how long it will take to complete our much needed broadband rollout”.

“We’ve moved from a state-of-the-art fibre to the premises (FttP) strategy to the so-called Multi-Technology Mix (MTM), which heavily relies on using the ageing Telstra copper network and the not so old, but not very modern, Hybrid Fibre-Coaxial (HFC) networks originally built for pay television.

“Both will require considerable remediation work before they are fit for purpose and there is a solid argument to be put that in the end we’ll have to replace much of them at some point anyway.”

“Meanwhile, we are told that our future rests on innovation. Internet Australia agrees. We have consistently drawn attention to NBN issues in this context, including the fact that we are way down the list of broadband enabled countries. Average connection speeds of 7.8Mbps saw Australia sitting at 46th position on global rankings in the third quarter this year. Surely an innovation nation needs to do better than that?” Patton asks.

“Much is being made of the lessons we can learn from countries such as Israel and Singapore. Fair point. However, what has allowed them both to become world leading technology hubs is a broad consensus on that being a national priority.

“To achieve our potential as a digitally enabled society we need a road map and consensus among all parties on the direction we should take. Underpinning that must be a speedy completion of the NBN,” Patton stresses.

Patton highlights the fact that 2016 is the National Year of Digital Inclusion.  “What better time to acknowledge that the NBN is not only necessary for our economic future it is also critical for our social development?”

Reflecting on the process of bringing the nbn to fruition with the deployment of broadband services across Australia, Patton says: “It appears that one of the roadblocks in recent times has been that ‘big business’ either doesn’t get it, or hasn’t wanted to rock the boat by telling the Coalition (especially under Prime Minister Abbott) that we need the NBN and we need it ASAP”.

“Now’s the time for the peak industry bodies and the country’s ‘top business leaders’ to speak up. We didn’t argue over the need to provide other essential services such as roads, rail, water and power, so why are we doing it over this piece of critical 21st Century infrastructure?

“We can continue to debate technology choices, but we cannot wait any longer to get Australians connected. History will ultimately reveal the best Internet delivery technology for a vast country like ours.

“However, history will also certainly judge us poorly if we lag behind in the next era of global innovation because we failed to provide an open and accessible Internet underpinned by ubiquitous high speed broadband,” Patton warns.

At the United Nations this week, Internet Society’s Kathy Brown called for a sharper global focus on Development and Human Rights in order to build a “people-centred Information Society and to put the building blocks in place to continue to “champion these two crucial imperatives”.

With 80,000 members, 145 organiations and 112 volunteer Chapters in 92 countries, Brown said the Internet Society – and the recent global World Summit on the Information Society – acknowledged that there is only one way to build the Internet future – “and that is by working together”.

Brown told the UN General Assembly that the Internet Society “stands ready to join with all of you - and with all stakeholders around the world” - to reach a common vision of an “open, global, trusted Internet for everyone, everywhere”.

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