Businesses not prepared for NBN's 'big bang', former Tas premier says

Bartlett, who was premier of the state between 2008 and 2011, still lives in Tasmania and says the NBN will help build on Tasmania’s “natural strengths”, such as its renewable energy resources.

One example is the growth of smartphone apps such as GoCatch, which has been lambasted by the established players in the taxi industry.

Independent app developers recently sought regulatory intervention after the NSW Taxi Council and Crime Stoppers launched an ad campaign on buses and the back of cabs urging consumers to avoid apps that don't have the Council's approval, such as GoCatch.

However, the app has the support of New South Wales Deputy Premier, Andrew Stoner, and Bartlett says industries need to get used to this happening more as consumers increasingly cut out the person in the middle to make their decisions about purchases and services.

“That’s a very good example of the sort of disruption I’m talking about and the sort of collapsed value chain that allows business now … to go direct to their customer and completely eliminate the traditional value chain from the middle,” he says.

While the industry furore around apps like GoCatch indicates discomfort around new business models, Bartlett says he doesn’t believe it is an unwillingness to change. Instead, businesses just don’t understand the changes that are occurring.

“Australian boards ... need to be populated more and more with people who understand this stuff, and too often they’re not,” Bartlett says.

He says mum and dad business owners are too busy to respond to the digital environment and it is up to the government and industry organisations to help the education process.

In particular, he says local and state government needs to play a greater role in engaging with industry sectors about new business models.

“When I hear that some 30 per cent of Australian tourism SMEs don’t even have a website, let alone an e-commerce-enabled website, you’ve just got to wonder how they’re surviving, frankly,” he says.

“The NBN is a great catalyst for conversation and one of the great things governments [have] … is they have the power to convene. That is, to bring people together to have a conversation and to plan for the future, and I think governments all over need to do more of that.”

Bartlett was premier of Tasmania between 2008 and 2011 and still lives in the state. He says the NBN benefits in regions like Tasmania, by helping to build on the state’s “natural strengths”, such as its renewable energy.

“In Tasmania we’re rolling out $400 million worth of irrigation schemes and the overlay of ubiquitous broadband with smart water grids and high value agribusiness is part of Tasmania’s future,” he says.

“[This] is an extraordinary opportunity for Tasmania both in innovation, productivity and so on. It’s those intersections of broadband with our traditional strengths that are a great opportunity.”

Former NBN Tasmania board member, Mark Kelleher, agrees, recently stating the NBN will make Tasmania less isolated from the rest of Australia and may even entice mainland residents to relocate to the state.

However, Bartlett cautions that the NBN will only provide a limited amount of opportunities.

“I think if regions suddenly think they’re going to become the Silicon Valley of the south just because they’ve got high-speed broadband, [it] is wrong,” he says.

Follow Stephanie McDonald on Twitter: @stephmcdonald0

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Tags David BartlettNational Broadband Network (NBN)ubiquitous broadband

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