David Bartlett, former Tasmanian premier, is championing the National Broadband Network (NBN) as a driver of digital disruption, but he says businesses aren’t ready for the opportunities it will bring.
Bartlett believes one of the key impacts of the NBN will be on teleworking. He says in regions such as the Sunshine Coast, where commuting to Brisbane can be difficult, the NBN will enable the collapse of “value chains” and enable employees to work from anywhere.
However, he says there are several barriers to businesses becoming more accepting of teleworking and many do not understand how the NBN will transform business.
“NBN or not, what ubiquitous broadband means for the world … [is] 60 per cent of industry sectors are heading for a 'big bang' disruption and I think in large part Australian industry sectors are under-prepared for that,” he says.
“If you look at the retail sector in Australia, just two or three years ago Gerry Harvey, supposedly [a] retail sector leader, [said] ‘no one’s ever going to buy a fridge online’ – well it seems like a fairly naive statement,” Bartlett says.
“I think a lot of other industry sectors like manufacturing, tourism, the service sector, hospitality – a whole range of them, and government itself – are in for massive disruption and I think largely Australian industry sectors are under-prepared.”
Bartlett is currently working with Regional Development Australia, the Sunshine Coast Council and other institutions, including the University of the Sunshine Coast and Sunshine Coast TAFE, to help them plan for their digital future.
“They are planning [and] doing a lot of work to build capacity in industry and that’s I think where the major challenge for Australia stands – getting our traditional industry sectors to understand the digital economy and to understand what [the] NBN is going to do to transform their businesses,” Bartlett says.
The ‘digital disruption’
In September last year, Deloitte Access Economics released a report stating retailers, financial companies and the media were in the firing line of a digital “big bang” which will change their revenue structure by at least 15 per cent.
Other impacts could include job loss and the changing use of social media and online applications, according to Deloitte.
“As we saw in the recent company reporting season, digital innovations are transforming the economic landscape far more profoundly than other big shifts in our economic history such as deregulation, oil shocks or mining booms," Dr Ric Simes, Deloitte director, said.
Bartlett says this upheaval is occurring on a global scale due to high-speed broadband becoming more prevalent and it is starting to happen in Australia.
“What the NBN will do for Australia, in my view, is enable Australia to play in this space and create productivity and innovation in the digital economy,” he says.
But he says there is a “missing ingredient” that needs more focus which would allow key industries to take full advantage of it.
This includes understanding how new ways of wealth is created, such as new value chains, new marketing models and new products, according to Bartlett.
However, he says businesses also need to understand how old models are slowly being destroyed.