Cisco issued stern warnings about Australia's sluggish uptake of Internet technologies last week, saying if it continued unabated it would damage participation in the global Internet economy.
Broadband rollout and better e-commerce strategies were high on the agenda, followed closely by the industry-involved initiative to address the severe IT skills shortage.
Terry Walsh, managing director of Cisco Systems' Australia/NZ, outlined the shift occurring in the Australian channel, driven by the Internet economy. "There are a whole range of issues corporate Australia is trying to come to grips with that present opportunities for channel partners," he said.
"The channel used to be someone who said well Cisco sells routers and somebody else sells hubs and what we have is the skills to take those components and actually work. But the industry has consolidated and connecting the router to the switch has now become Cisco's responsibility. It's no longer about making the network work, it's about tying the network into the applications, and the applications into the business process, giving employees access to data so they can make good decisions without impacting my balance sheets.
"There is still a healthy business for them making margins on reselling products but most of the healthy channel partners have very strong business streams outside of the simple margin-line product model. I think a lot for them is changing and as long as they are paying attention there's a chance they can do extremely well."
Walsh added that while the falling Australian dollar has knocked his sales percentages down significantly, it has brought some focus to the impact of the Internet economy on nations and their economic prosperity.
"We have a future that could involve us being an entire nation of branches of multinationals with no Australian businesses if we don't move on this fairly quickly," he said. "Just counting the number of people connected to the Internet and calling ourselves world leaders is no longer enough."
Walsh also believes the cost of bandwidth in the service provider space, up to 20 times more than the US, is crippling Australian businesses trying to compete in the global market place. But with a significant stake in the carrier market in the IP domain and recent deals struck with Telstra and PowerTel, Cisco's push for deregulation of the telco infrastructure and broadband access could seem a little self interested.