Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has launched a Digital Economy Strategy aimed at leveraging the National Broadband Network to drive “digital productivity”.
The strategy comprised eight goals, intended to create one of the “world’s leading digital economies” by 2020. The goals were:
- To rank in the top five OECD countries for households with broadband connectivity, expected to enable telecommuting, remote work and study opportunities, information gathering, price and product discovery and access to health services.
The Government has committed $23.8 million to a Digital Communications initiative and $10.4 million to extend its Broadband for Seniors program to drive use of the NBN.
- To rank in the top five OECD countries for how businesses and not-for-profit organisations use online opportunities to drive productivity improvements, expand their customer base and create jobs.
The Government has pledged $12.4 million to a Digital Enterprise outreach program for organisations in the 40 first and second release NBN sites.
- For “the majority” of households and organisations to have access to smart technology for managing their energy use.
- To provide individual e-health records to “high priority customers” such as the elderly, mothers, babies, chronic disease sufferers and their carers, and for a quarter of all specialists to be delivering telehealth consultations to remote patients in accordance with the National E-health Strategy.
- To provide connectivity to Australian schools, TAFEs, universities and higher education institutions and facilitate the development of flexible and online, virtual learning opportunities.
The Government has spent more than $2.4 billion on the Digital Education Revolution for secondary schools, and plans to establish a $27.2 million Education and Skills program and tele-education trial.
- To double Australia’s level of teleworking, so that at least 12 percent of employees report having a teleworking arrangement with their employer.
- For four out of five Australians to choose to engage with the government online to reduce costs and improve communication.
- To increase digital engagement in regional Australia, expected to raise regional output and facilitate access to goods, services, education and employment opportunities.
The 68-page strategy document (pdf), launched at the CeBIT conference in Sydney today, called for action by “all levels of governments, industry and the community as a whole”.
Networking vendor Cisco, industry group AIIA, the Australian Computer Society and the Communications Alliance welcomed the strategy’s eight goals today.
According to ACS president Anthony Wong, an ICT blueprint was “vital” to the NBN’s desired outcomes.
“Participating in a digital economy is not just about having a website, it is about the quantity and quality of e-commerce and online transactions,” he stated.
“We need more Australians to get active online. Education and skills are key to ensuring that people can participate and leverage the digital economy opportunities.”
AIIA chief Ian Birks said the strategy reflected “bold and visionary leadership by Minister Conroy and the Gillard Government".
"I think its smart to make some headway in the first release sites and make sure they are as successful as possible," he said.
"That's not just smart on a political level - if successful, those sites will create a pull from other parts of Australia.”
Birks said while health, education and Government service delivery did not fall under the remit of Conroy’s Broadband, Communications and Digital Economy portfolio, the Minister may derive some authority from his position as Gillard's advisor on digital productivity.
“Conroy will need all his powers of coercion with other stakeholders in government to get all parts of the government onside to achieve that vision,” he said.