On the back of the weekend’s Federal Election and the possibility of a hung parliament, industry groups have responded with optimism, resulting from the continued focus on the need for broadband in Australia.
The Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA), chief executive officer, Ian Birks, said that broadband had emerged as a major issue on Saturday evening with many candidates referring to broadband in their post-election analysis, specifically, the three independents who identified individually that broadband and communications is a critical issue for their rural electorates.
"I think broadband and the digital economy have the greatest potential for payback in rural and regional, it’s actually a greater potential for payback than in cities and towns, not only the obvious e-health and those kinds of things but also stimulating the local economy, small businesses, breaking distance, regional engagement and so on,” Birks said. “All of those things are facilitated by broadband and the digital economy so I think what we’ll be doing as the AIIA and what we need to do as an industry is clearly understand, given the current situation, the value of broadband and the digital economy in rural and regional areas.
"Whoever forms government out of this situation will be happy to work with them on the appropriate policy frameworks but they should be cognisant of the high level of issue that broadband has been.”
Birks said the AIIA will be looking to talk to the Independents, the Greens and the major parties to reinforce key messages.
“I think one of the things that we really need to do is understand the rural and regional aspects as well as possible and I think that includes trying to get good solid research data on return investment but also looking at some of the case studies about the changes that are happening, for example, with wool trading online or all of these things that are happening out there that are being driven by a communications infrastructure."
Internet Industry Association (IIA), chief executive, Peter Coroneos reiterated the AIIA’s response.
"Obviously no one expected this result but I think preliminarily at least we can say how gratified we are that all the independents seem to be talking about broadband as one of their key priorities, and I think that this presents a tremendous opportunity for Australia that, irrespective of who eventually forms government, we stand a much better chance now of securing ubiquitous fibre broadband than we would’ve had the opposition won outright." Coroneos said.
According to the Australian Computer Society (ACS), chief executive, Bruce Lakin, Australia is looking for a government that takes a “proactive” approach to ICT and that recognises “how fundamental the growth of the ICT sector is to the growth of the nation”.
"We think broadband is vital, we said that before the election and we still maintain it, we think that it’s an enabling technology that neither party can ignore, and neither party is ignoring it because obviously it’s got a lot of air time during the election campaign so we’re hopeful that they don’t just see commitment to broadband as being a commitment to the ICT sector because the ICT sector is bigger than broadband," Lakin said.
"We’ve been evangelising for some time the need for a consolidation of the ICT portfolio under one minister, we’d like to think that the incoming government takes recognition of that fact and builds that into the portfolio structures and we look forward to sitting down with whoever the minister is and working with them on an ICT agenda that helps build this nation."
The Communication Alliance chief executive, John Stanton, said that they were eagerly awaiting the outcome of the election and pledged their commitment to whichever party “manages to form a government” to optimise broadband in Australia.
“Fortunately, most of the work we’ve already done towards implementing the NBN is work that is applicable and transferable to any other high-speed broadband network that might be rolled out in Australia so the work the industry has done to date won’t be wasted,” Stanton said.
“We’re also happy that the Independents are speaking out about the importance of broadband to the nation’s future and that it will find its way into the policy mix of whoever emerges as the new government."