Local IT policy ‘far behind'

Under current Federal Government policy, only 3 per cent of Australian businesses and 2 per cent of consumers will adopt broadband technologies by 2003, figures which have damning implications for our national credentials in the Internet economy.

This is the warning issued by Bob Hayward, senior vice president of Gartner's Asia Pacific operations, at Gartner's Symposium /Itxpo in Brisbane. Hayward believes access to plentiful, cheap broadband services and infrastructure to enable the wireless Web are critical to the future of Australia's economy.

"The rest of the world is moving very quickly in this direction, creating networked economies where business embraces the efficiencies created by ubiquitous communication," Hayward said. "Australia risks being left behind if we lack the infrastructure to participate fully."

Telstra seems to be copping most of the flack for the sluggish rate of broadband deployment, an issue Hayward believes was highlighted when Microsoft chairman Bill Gates castigated Telstra MD Ziggy Switkowski at the Melbourne World Economic Forum.

"He [Gates] was right to do so because if current Government policy continues we'll see high prices, limited competition and consequential slow adoption," said Geoff Johnson, Gartner research director.

While the geographical size, coupled with a small population, makes the rolling out of a broadband infrastructure an economic nightmare, Lloyd Ernst, CEO of WebCentral, says that to deploy the ASP model they currently have on the drawing board requires something more sophisticated than the standard Optus and Telstra lines.

"e-commerce in Australia is still accommodating to the lowest common denominator," Ernst said. "I just bought an apartment in the middle of Sydney and I can't even get broadband. The best I can do is a 28Kbps connection that keeps on dropping out. I can't even get cable. Even from a consumer point of view it's disappointing that they're still concentrating on ASDL models when what WebCentral is looking towards is the richness of applications that can be added with broadband and taking it to small-to-medium businesses."

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