Allan Takes Aim Blog

Do you want a high speed life?

Posted on: 1 July 2009

First published The Chronicle, 23 June 2009

With the Government promising to invest $43 billion in the rollout of a National Broadband Network (NBN) that, allegedly, will put all but a few thousand Australians within range of high speed broadband, I wondered  what Glen Boreham, Managing Director IBM Australia & New Zealand and a company likely to benefit, would say about it in his address the National Press Club, Wednesday, June 10.

In his address, he said that to prevent Australia becoming a “them and us” society, rural areas should be a major focus of the broadband roll out. He said also that while investing in roads and railways was important, “keyboard ready” projects were as important as “shovel ready” projects adding, “I do not think the term shovel ready is indicative of our traditional mindset.”  He went on to pay Prime Minister Rudd what now seems a required obligatory compliment from senior executives of organisations likely to benefit from the Government’s various stimulus packages.  

As expected, Mr Boreham spoke about the benefits of technology but said also said that because Australia had slipped to eighteenth in the world’s rank of technologically advanced countries, it needed new technology to regain its position. When speaking about various energy fields he mentioned wind power (I admit I don’t find a landscape of wind turbines appealing) but surprisingly made no mention of nuclear energy, particularly nuclear fusion. 

In common with other senior executives of IT companies he said technology would create new industries and new jobs but, in common with the others preaching the same gospel, he didn’t say what the industries would be or the kind of jobs they would create.

 And when he addressed the issue of increased productivity Mr Boreham spoke as if the way to do the trick was for everyone to have high-speed broadband. But what of the millions of low-income earner, not to mention pensioners, who don’t have a computer? And regardless of productivity, some with a computer wonder what they will gain from high-speed broadband.

 The fact that high-speed broadband can download films in minutes instead of hours doesn’t excite them nor does the fact that it will speedily download the latest pop tunes to Ipods. Some without computers also said, cynically, that after keeping themselves from starving, they were pleased to know high speed broadband would help them speedily invest the money left over (in the unlikely event they had any) and also help them send e-mail messages to friends that would arrive almost before they were sent.

I am in no doubt that, in time, high-speed broadband will help create a smarter economy. However, like some small business people who also have no doubt about the future I wonder how high speed-broadband will help people like me, while some engaged in farming, fishing, mining, retailing, shipping, transport and myriad other industries wonder how it will help them.

They ask: will it make crops grow more quickly; help trawlers catch more fish (I doubt environmentalists would think that a benefit); make mining easier and safer; make retailing more productive; make loading cargo ships speedier and help get them to their destination more quickly and with greater safety than presently? But perhaps of greater importance they want to know how high-speed broadband will improve the speed and productivity of their minds?

 Most people realise that, in the not too distant future, we will live in computer-controlled homes and that Smart Utilities, Smart Traffic and Smart Infrastructure will be common. But new technology is not a new thing. Since first striding the earth, man has constantly devised new technologies such as computers and high-speed broadband.

 And man will continue to develop new technology. Hopefully the technology will improve future economies and living standards in the developed world and also prevent homelessness, poverty and starvation for the millions of people in third world countries where such conditions are endemic and where life is a constant battle for survival.           

 So could I suggest to Mr Boreham and the CEOs of other technology companies, that when putting together their research and development budgets, they include money for the development of technology that will help make survival easier for people in third world countries.

For local Community News get  The Chronicle 




2 Responses to "Do you want a high speed life?"

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Another reason moving house in Germany could be expensive is that getting free cardboard boxes is virtually impossible. One cannot go to a local supermarket or newsagent to ask for discarded boxes. My way through Germany is being recycled – a cardboard box that once held cans of dog food or washing powder is invariably coming to some recycling plant before one has an opportunity to ask. Most German removal firms offer therefore green, recyclable boxes either for sale or hire – in a high price.

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