22 May 2012
May I also offer an apology on behalf of the Prime Minister who is unable to attend today’s event.
CeBIT has in its ten years evolved as the most comprehensive annual technology gathering of industry and government in Australia.
At last year’s CeBIT I outlined a vision...
It was the government’s vision for Australia’s digital future...for our plans to harness the potential of the NBN to unite and grow Australia.
In 2011, launching the National Digital Economy Strategy here, I described this vision as unreservedly bold.
Twelve months later that bold vision is on track... the picture is taking shape.
I am proud to say Australia is well positioned to become one of the world’s leading digital economies by 2020.
We are building the infrastructure, developing the policy and activating the programs to realise a prosperous and inclusive digital future for all Australians.
The digital economy
Our strategy defines digital economy as:
“the global network of economic and social activities that are enabled by information and communications technologies, such as the internet, mobile and sensor networks.”
As this audience knows, the Digital Economy really is the whole economy.
The industrial economy developed in phases through steam engines, internal combustion engines and electric motors.
Communication technology has gone through phases from telegraphs, to telephones and then data communication.
Each has transformed all the other sections of the economy.
The advent of ubiquitous high-speed broadband is another wave that will transform the economy even further.
A recent report puts the growth of the internet economy in G20 nations to nearly double between 2010 and 2016.
This would result in an additional $20 billion to the Australian economy over the next four years.1
Australia’s future is increasingly a digital future... a broadband future.
Quality infrastructure, a skilled and flexible workforce and innovation will be its key.
The NBN is the platform that will allow us to expand on our existing capabilities and develop new ones.
National Digital Economy Strategy
The National Digital Economy Strategy details the government’s aim for Australia to maximise this potential -
the potential that ubiquitous, high-speed, affordable broadband offers to become a leading global digital economy by 2020.
The strategy has eight goals with quantified targets.
With the release of the strategy last year I announced a number of initiatives.
Through the course of the year we announced an additional seven.
Today I want to give you some examples of the scope of the activity underway.
The starting point, and the strategy’s bedrock, is to get more Australian households and businesses online, using the internet with confidence and skill.
The internet is increasingly part of day-to-day life for Australians. It is making everyday tasks easier and faster,
It is changing the way we do many things, such as staying in touch with family and friends or doing our shopping.
Eight point six million of us, for example accessed social media from home in June last year.2
In the same month, 35 per cent of people had bought, sold, or shopped online.3
Still, there are plenty of people who are not comfortable online.
They don’t understand it, or perhaps don’t trust it.
The government is committed to ensuring they are not left behind.
To that end, over the past year we have launched our Digital Hubs program.
The Digital Hubs program helps individuals really understand the potential of the NBN’s fast broadband.
They are already in operation in seven NBN connected communities and will be established in 33 more by the end of the year.
When I launched the Digital Hub at Brunswick Neighbourhood House we demonstrated the value of high quality, multi-party videoconferencing.
Connecting to the hubs in Kiama, Townsville and Scottsdale everyone saw the real conferencing and meeting possibilities made available by high-speed broadband.
The Hubs are delivering a mix of group and one-on-one training to individuals.
I’m looking forward to announcing the successful applicants for up to 20 communities in Round Two soon.
Applications for round three of the Digital Hubs program closed on 10 May 2012.
The Digital Hubs are showing communities how to use the NBN, and what they can do with it.
They are proving to be very popular, and are a real community focus.
The Digital Enterprise program is similarly helping SMEs and not-for-profits.
Most large businesses already understand the value of the digital economy.
A recent report from Alcatel-Lucent found that 93 per cent of medium-to-large businesses believe it is important to their ongoing business strategy.4
Three-quarters of those surveyed said that the NBN and future mobile networks were essential drivers for future digital participation.
We want to make sure smaller businesses have the same confidence and can access the same opportunities.
As the City of Onkaparinga Mayor Lorraine Rosenberg has said:
“... high-speed broadband has opened up a new world for southern businesses... [It is] a future source of competitive economic advantage and a great asset for the community as a whole.”
An early opportunity for small business is the democratisation of IT made possible by cloud computing.
In his report on the potential for cloud computing services in Australia, Dr Nick Gruen wrote the NBN will:
“...promote business and consumer confidence in cloud solutions”.
The Digital Enterprises program has also seen centres launched in first release sites.
We will also soon be announcing the successful Round Two applicants.
These centres promote to business and the not-for-profit sector the benefits of being on line.
And they provide training to help them seize that potential.
NBN also has enormous potential to transform the way health services are delivered, particularly to older Australians and those with a chronic disease.
In reaching every home, business, health care clinic, nursing home and hospital in the country, the NBN will make health care accessible and affordable.
I have quoted in other speeches the dramatic savings being reported from telehealth trials in the UK.5
As a first step in this direction, the Government expanded the Medicare Benefits Scheme to cover some telehealth services, including allowing rebates for certain types of online consultations.
By the end of April this year Medicare Australia had processed over 15 thousand telehealth services.
3% of all specialists in Australia had offered a telehealth service less than 12 months after they were covered by Medicare.
We have also already established a number of telehealth trials. These will help us to better understand health delivery models that the NBN will make possible.
In Townsville, Kiama and Armidale our telehealth trials are assessing the benefits of in-home monitoring for people with diabetes, other chronic conditions like cardiovascular disease and mental health services.
Applications for the new NBN-enabled Telehealth Pilots program to fund additional trials closed late last week.
In addition we have announced over the last year programs for two specific target groups; veterans and people with disabilities.
300 veterans and war widows, with various health conditions, will trial accessing high quality care without leaving home.
Pre-school and school aged children with hearing and sight impairments living in rural and outer regional areas of Australia will trial online early intervention programs.
Together, these telehealth trials will help us realise the opportunity the NBN provides to deliver health services across the nation efficiently and effectively.
The high quality of the video conferencing made possible by the NBN will transform education and skills training across the country.
Schools and institutions already connected to the NBN have seized the possibilities.
In Townsville, students at the Cathedral School of St Anne and St James - and many others -- have been taking off on virtual field trips.
The Skills Institute in Tasmania is delivering the NBN on Wheel.
This project lets apprentices in remote locations access online e-tutoring and live group classes from their workplaces through a mobile learning centre.
Services under the EduONE tele-education trial under the Digital Regions Initiative will be progressively rolled out from September.
This trial will provide an interactive media learning space including state-of-the-art virtual classrooms and laboratories.
It will use high definition internet protocol television, video on demand and 3D representations in trade skilling packages to deliver courses on trade skills, business administration, health, and finances.
The trial also provides interactive literacy and numeracy open education resources to help adult job seekers improve their job readiness.
By the end of the year it will include 56 University of New England and 5 TAFE open education resources.
Virtual English Tuition for Migrants classes will begin in the coming months.
A recently-arrived migrant who cannot access English tuition services locally will be able to collaborate and communicate in real-time with English teachers and peers in their own language through a virtual classroom.
There has also been an overwhelming response to the NBN-enabled Education and Skills Service Program.
It will support the development of online and interactive education and skills services.
Government is in the final stages of the assessment process, and the successful proposals will be announced shortly.
The Digital Economy will also help environmental sustainability.
Fixed-line access technologies using FTTP are more energy efficient than HFC, ADSL and fibre to the node networks.
According to Melbourne University’s Professor Rod Tucker, when one compares a FTTP network with a DSL or wireless network, FTTP proves to be far more energy efficient as it allows for a greater amount of data transmission for less power.
Universal high-speed broadband will support smart applications that encourage more efficient use of our water, energy, transport and infrastructure.
It will enable sensor technology to be deployed more widely.
There are already a number of sensor projects delivering real gains, including Newcastle’s Smart Grid, Smart City project; and the Australian and Victorian Governments’ Managed Motorways initiative addressing congestion on the Melbourne’s M1 motorway.
Sensor networks are not high bandwidth applications, but they do require low latency, highly reliable infrastructure.
Telework also promises significant environmental savings, as well as increasing workforce participation and flexibility.
It means people who cannot manage the traditional nine to five commute, such as carers, can work from home.
Workers can spend less time on the road, and more time with their families.
It has been estimated that if 10% of employed Australians telework 50% of the time, Australian households would save a total of around $160 million per year in fuel costs.6
Doubling the number of people who regularly work from home for part of each week to 12% - which is what they have in the US - will produce more than one billion dollars in benefits to the economy.
To address this need for support and information about teleworking, my department held a very successful telework forum last year.
I am very pleased to say 74 organisations across Australia have now signed up to promote telework as part of flexible work arrangements.
This reflects the strong interest in the benefits of the NBN for teleworking
These partners will all be taking part in the first National Telework Week to be held in November.
The Australian Government is partnering with the Australian Information Industry Association and the Australian Services Roundtable to provide a series of telework seminars.
Employers will learn from other organisations about how to capture the productivity and workplace benefits from making telework part of their flexible workplace strategy.
The Chief Executive of Wesptac Gail Kelly puts it like this:
“[People] don’t have to deal with the traffic in the morning. They’re at home when they want to be. They absolutely love it. And guess what? The productivity is better.7
“I think the old days of people working from eight to five, those days are definitely gone.”
Government Service Delivery
The NBN will enable government services organisations to open a new service delivery avenue – video.
Video conferencing will allow great efficiency and convenience, particularly for customers who live a fair distance from customer service centres.
It will make it much easier for customers to access a wider range of services
Improving government service delivery under the government’s Service Delivery Reform agenda is also a priority.
Later this year the Department of Human Services will begin trialling high definition video conferencing with the NBN to Centrelink, Child Support and Medicare customers.
Medicare Online Claiming has received almost 100,000 claims this financial year.
Close to half a million accounts have been linked through the australia.gov.au accounts service... where people need only one ID and password to access several online services.
Clearly, Australians want to be able to engage with government online at all levels... and all for all sorts of services.
I recently approved funding for the first seven projects in the Local Government program.
This will help local councils develop NBN-enabled online services which are replicable and scalable.
We are already beginning to see the possibilities for service enhancement as the NBN is rolled out to local governments.
In another very different area, we have launched the NBN Regional Legal Assistance Program.
We have invited legal assistance service providers to apply for funding to trial NBN-based projects that strengthen and increase legal assistance delivery.
The successful Round One applicants will be announced by the end of the financial year.
Regional Australia has the most to gain from the NBN.
One of the small businesses I met recently in Brunswick provides a really good example of the changes ahead.
The Department of Agriculture in Queensland runs three day courses for graziers. For most of the trainees this involves almost two whole days of travel as well.
Global Vision Media has converted this course to a course based on videoconferencing.
Not only does it save the trainees time. It improves the quality of the training because they can take the instructor with them to their own paddocks.
Small business at both ends, training and skills, and benefits for regional Australia.
As I look back on the strategy’s first year, and forward to 2020, I see a digital journey that is complex, multilayered and exciting.
The strategy recognises the breadth and scope of applications involved.
The future involves the use of multiple devices by multiple people at the same time in the one premise.
To achieve quality conferencing and use of cloud services requires improved upload speeds as well as download.
And this highlights the importance of making the right infrastructure choice for our future.
It is disappointing that the Opposition still doesn’t get it.
They are still claiming that people have become obsessed about pursuing the best technical solution.
Meanwhile the Michael Malone, CEO of Australia’s leading specialist ISP iiNet said last week;
"The debate should be not 'should we do it?' but 'what are we going to do with it?'."8
We have set the vision.
But delivering our digital future lies with industry, governments, and community.
I look to the technology community to join with the Government in ensuring Australians understand the opportunity before them and are able to capitalise on it.
Building on the NBN through our National Digital Economy Strategy will maintain our global competitiveness, grow our productivity and drive our innovation.
Australia now moves forward in the digital world as we have moved forward throughout our history with foresight and conviction.
1 Boston Consulting Group, The $4.2 Trillion Opportunity: The Internet economy in the G20, March 2012. http://www.bcg.com/expertise_impact/PublicationDetails.aspx?id=tcm:12-100491&mid=tcm:12-100464
4 Smart.Digital.Connected: 2012 Research Report, Alcatel-Lucent. http://www.alcatel-lucent.com/smart-digital-connected/_files/Alcatel-Lucent%20Australia_SDC_Report_2012.pdf
5 See speech to Trans Tasman Business Circle.
6 Deloittes, Next Generation Telework: A Literature Review, http://www.nbn.gov.au/files/2012/02/Next_Generation_Telework-A_Literature_Review-July_20111.pdf
8 Rachel Afflick ‘Ballarat Odd Place to Start’ Ballarat Courier 19 May 2012 reporting comments of Michael Malone CEO iiNet to a business lunch at Ballarat Technology. Park.