Building a ‘networked society’ in Australia, with the NBN

Connecting Communities is a groundbreaking review of the community benefits and innovation enabled by broadband in the UK and the policy implications for Australia. Commissioned by Huawei Australia but independently researched and compiled by Dr Tim Williams, Connecting Communities is based on a wealth of case-studies, interviews and analysis combined with a sharp personal insight. The report offers compelling real life evidence of the impact of broadband – on public services, democratic activity, and on communities themselves. Its conclusion that ‘broadband is too important to be left to geeks and engineers’ and that the objective should be to build not just a network but a ‘networked society’ will provoke debate. The author also hopes to promote and inspire engagement and discourse between Australian businesses, industry groups, Government and, of course, communities themselves.

Maybe he is preaching to converted, but I really like the optimistic, community benefit focused message in this report. Its a counterpoint to the ‘hard’ technology and cost-benefit debate that has been the focus around the NBN so far.

Imagine this – The NBN will be much more than simply faster broadband

After reading the NBN business plan it’s actually a bit hard to remain aloof and unexcited. This is a magnificent, awe-inspiring undertaking: there has never been anything like it, not in this country and probably not anywhere in the world.

Let me be clear, I’m in the pro-NBN camp. The main arguments against the NBN appear to be based on economic foresight that:

  • Not enough people will want it; and
  • The technology will be obsolete before it turns a profit.

I’m less worried about the technology – fibre optic isn’t a new technology but we are far from exhausting its capabilities… unless of course we can commercialise faster than the speed of light matter transmission in the near future.

But the issue of demand is something different. I remember the difficulties of explaining to business and consumer users back in the early 2000s about the benefits of moving from dial-up to plain old DSL. At that time, many people just could not see the point of a faster, always on Internet connection either.

Cost of course is always an issue, but it is also very true that people can’t always imagine the benefits and value of a new technology. Trying to work out what the NBN will bring in the future by simply thinking in terms of what we do today with broadband, but doing it faster, is a mistake. The NBN will be much more than this.

Hat tip Delimiter.

Realising Our Broadband Future – 10th-11th Dec

The National Broadband Network (NBN) will turbo-charge our digital economy and enable Australia to become a global leader in using the online world – the world of the 21st century. It will make possible new ways of delivering all essential services.

We need to start planning now for this new world to ensure we maximise the opportunities that the National Broadband Network will provide.

The Government is hosting the Realising Our Broadband Future forum to map the applications and business models that will thrive in Australia’s high speed broadband future.

The Prime Minister, the Hon. Kevin Rudd MP, will open the forum and a number of key speakers, including NBN Co. CEO, Mike Quigley and Jeff Cole, Director USC Annenberg School, will outline the potential of the NBN for Australia’s digital economy. The forum will be co-chaired by Dr Paul Twomey and participants will include leaders from all parts of Australia.

Participants will contribute to five discussion streams. Over two days, these streams will debate the possible new applications and business models that will emerge in an NBN-enabled world, conduct a reality check of where we are now, and map what needs to be done to take full advantage of our high-speed broadband enabled digital economy.

Forum participants and the general public can contribute to the discussion via twitter and collaboratively edit the map of our next steps. Plenary sessions of the forum will be webcast live, with audio streaming of other sessions.

Talking of the fact the government is already making attempts to engage online, the next big online engagement is the Realising Our Broadband Future forum later this week.

Unfortunately I’m still working on Taskforce Project 8 and won’t be able to attend, but I’ll be keep an eye on proceedings. Even if you can’t participate on the day (in person or online), you can still get involved by submitting and voting on ideas (although I think you’ll need a Google account since they are using Google Moderator).

The model for this event has been strongly influenced by Sen. Kate Lundy’s Public Sphere approach.