The Australian Prime MInister Kevin Rudd this week announced an AUD43 billion plan to deliver high-speed fibre-to-the-node broadband to 90% of Australian homes within 8 years.
I congratulate the government which has had the vision and is providing the funds, and is taking the risk. They have had to step in since the private sector was providing none of these elements and waiting for them to do so was a classic case of market forces failing to deliver.
Australia has several unique problems when it comes to delivering telecommunication services. Firstly it has one of the lowest rates of population per square kilometre in the world. And even though most cling to the coast like barnacles the expense of delivering physical services to a very spread out population is rarely cost-effective.
The second problem is that it is resource rich so it hasn’t seen the above problem as a problem till now. Australia just crushes more rocks and turns that into money.
Until of course the resources boom finally came to an end. Until of course the Global Financial Crisis left it clambering for new ways to turn a dollar. Until of course it compares itself with the rest of the world and finds it has not kept up with investment in infrastructure.
International Telecommunications Union Statistics
So here is some news Australia. The resources boom is over and the knowledge boom is just beginning.
Many struggle to see what spending all this money on some fibre cables is going to do for them. This infrastructure is long overdue.
It can be argued that the countries like those of the G20 have had little vision in the past ten years other than to make money. That’s fine but as we know, money has this capacity to disappear and we see few benefits of the ‘good times’.
The benefits of this initiative will flow to the three core areas of economic, social and environmental improvement for many years to come.
I am much happier to see the money going to fibre cable than some of the choices that face the USA right now. For instance spending the equivalent amount on bailing out General Motors. GM is an industrial age dinosaur. Its products don’t fit with the economic, social and environmental future yet they still persist in making brands for numbskulls like the Hummer. Bankruptcy is the best thing for them.
These challenges are echoing around the world and the question is when do we finally give up on the industrial age, bring it to a graceful close and start facing and investing in the knowledge age that is out inevitable future?
Embracing a knowledge rich and sustainable future is now becoming our responsibility. It also just makes plain good sense. The time has come for a new mindset.
The economy of the future will revolve around the exchange of ideas not commodities. The social fabric of the future will benefit from knowledge based services in diverse areas like finance, education and medicine (such as the ability to deliver high quality diagnosis in the home) with the use of simple and existing technology (except for those missing pipes). The environment will win in a multitude of ways as we remove the drudge from our lives and concentrate on improving the planet.
So thanks Kevin Rudd for getting the ball rolling into the future.
Phew I think I’ll go and have a soy/chai latté down at the Internet café after that rant!