Conroy launches Digital Economy Strategy

Conroy launches Digital Economy Strategy

Summary: Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has today unveiled the government's Digital Economy Strategy, which is aimed at improving Australia's broadband penetration ahead of the completion of the $35.9 billion National Broadband Network roll-out in 2020.


Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has today unveiled the government's Digital Economy Strategy, which is aimed at improving Australia's broadband penetration ahead of the completion of the $35.9 billion National Broadband Network roll-out in 2020.

Stephen Conroy

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy (Credit: Josh Taylor/ZDNet Australia)

At the launch of the annual CeBIT Australia information technology industry conference in Sydney this morning, Conroy said the government's key vision regarding the policy (PDF) is for Australia to be one of the top five OECD countries for broadband penetration in households.

"To accelerate progress towards this, I am pleased to announce the government will provide $23.8 million over three years for a Digital Communities initiative, a focus of which will be to establish a 'Digital Hub' in each of the 40 communities to first benefit from the NBN," Conroy said.

In addition to this, Conroy also outlined an additional $21.7 million in funding over four years for an NBN-enabled education and skills services program for online interactive learning.

Over the next three years, $12.4 million will be provided to a Digital Enterprises initiative to assist small-to-medium enterprises and not-for-profit organisations to get online.

In order to drive take-up of telehealth services by specialists to 25 per cent by 2020, $2 million will be given to Princess Alexandria hospital in Queensland, and $3.5 million will be provided to the NBN site of Townsville to trial telehealth services focused especially on the treatment of diabetes.

The minister said the government also aims to have 12 per cent of Australian workers teleworking by 2020.

Conroy said that Australia was currently falling behind other countries in our region for broadband penetration, with many Australians saying that they did not see the relevance of broadband to their lifestyle.

"I think it's fair to say that many people have not had the opportunity to experience high-speed broadband," he said.

The announcement came as the government launched a revamped website, detailing the National Digital Economy Strategy, and explaining the government's vision for the roll-out of the NBN.

The government has outlined eight key areas on which the government will need to focus on in order to reach this goal by 2020:

  • Households
  • Business and non-profits
  • Environment
  • Education
  • Health
  • Teleworking
  • Government
  • Rural and Regional Australia

The government has also appointed 20 "broadband champions" to sell the benefits of the NBN to consumers and businesses, including Planet Ark founder Jon Dee, eBay ANZ vice president Deb Starkey and chair of the world medical association Dr Mukesh Haikerwal.

The launch of the strategy was welcomed by outgoing Australian Information Industry Association CEO Ian Birks.

"From an industry perspective, this is the kind of leadership we like to see," he told ZDNet Australia. "Industry likes this kind of dynamic [between government and business]."

Birks said that Conroy would need "all his negotiation skills" in order to get the other government departments, such as health and education, on-board with the strategy, but said he would be up to the task.

In regards to Conroy's appointed "broadband champions", Birks said it wasn't a bad list but that the government should also seek to appoint experts in the fields of government service delivery as well as an expert on rural and regional Australia.

Topics: Government, Broadband, Government AU, NBN, Tech Industry


Armed with a degree in Computer Science and a Masters in Journalism, Josh keeps a close eye on the telecommunications industry, the National Broadband Network, and all the goings on in government IT.

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  • More propaganda by the 'digital revolution' muppets.

    This whole debacle is looking more and more like a One Tel saga. The only problem with this is, that it's not the Packers or Murdochs loosing money, it's the Australian taxpayer.

    Seems that Conroy is playing 'Jodee Rich' with Quigley as 'Bradley Keeling' (by the way, an excellent book 'Rich kids' gives an insight into this crazy industry and investment).

    Trying to spend taxpayers money as quick as possible with no IT systems for BSS/OSS - billing or any other that is needed by a complex telco.

    It is going to be one of the biggest investment waste in Australian history with absolutely 'no' accountability. Seems that Labor will once again, manage to make a mess and deny all.
    • "It is going to be one of the biggest investment waste in Australian history"


      "with absolutely 'no' accountability"


      "Seems that Labor will once again, manage to make a mess and deny all."

      Also false, people seem to forget who was responsible for creating this mess to begin with.
      Hubert Cumberdale
  • It's funny how the anti-NBNers take offence to me referring to their comments as FUD...

    But seriously TheGuy, here's your list...

    "Debacle"... comparing the NBN to the bankrupt "One Tel"... "losing money"... "biggest waste in history"...

    All with absolutely no factual basis what-so-ever...

    In fact the very Corporate/Business Plan those like you demanded, says the complete opposite. So...

    If this isn't desperate, idiotic FUD at it's worst.. nothing is!
  • So now we have "broadband champions". Can I suggest to Stephen that he could enlist the help of Cate B, John Hewson, Mal Fraser and the inimitable Michael Caton. They are already experienced champions of lost causes and I'm sure a photo op with Julia, Stephen and all the celeb champions will be just the ticket to sell the NBN to the great unwashed public. Even better the ministers and the champions could all troop up to Armidale (at the taxpayers expense ofcourse) and sit with all of the 6 end users who will demonstrate with great enthusiasm the speed of their new broadband connection - what a photo op!! To quote my good friend Rizz "If this isn't desperate, idiotic FUD at its worst.. nothing is!"

    I couldn't have put it better myself - talk about shadows on the wall of Plato
  • Oh look FUDster #2 arrives with more ridiculous FUD...

    Please try to obtain your info from outside the Lib website (remember you told us you are a Lib member) and via your hero Alan Jones!
  • I'm sooooo angry with these pro-NBNers. This NBN is a complete waste of tax payers monies, $73B to be exact, and that's a fact, i'll look for it (facts) later. There's no evidence that we need this kind of speeds for the internet, the speeds we have at the moment is plenty, 24Mbps (theoretical). Considering we're going from 9600bps to 14kbps, 28kbps, 33kbps, 56kbps, ISDN (64kbps, 128kbps), ADSL (256kbps,512kbps,1.5Mbps - 8Mbps), ADSL2+ (~24Kbps), Cable (10 - 100Mbps(minority)). There is absolutely no evidence why we're moving data faster and faster. I'm with you The(backward thinking, belongs to the stone age)guy. Lets go back to our caves and hibernate.
  • If you take the time to read this strategy document you'll see its mostly motherhood with more padding than content, when it really could have been one of those fundamentally game changing strategies that we could have looked back on as a watershed. Its biggest flaw is its a cargo cult view of the world; the government obviously thinks that by putting in a faster network that business and government departments will magically become super efficient and highly productive over night; without the effort of changing their business processes and without a massive investment in more software and systems technology than they have now. Not a thought of the economic cost and impact of all the enterprise change that needs to happen to realise the vision. For example where’s the technology we’re going to need at home to have those tele-consultations with our GP’s, are we all going to use Skype, will we have to buy some new enabling software that can interoperate with the commercial systems the GP’s will likely use, or are the government going to develop a industrial strength system, with strong identity controls and a public directory to do this and who’s going to pay for that.
    • very well expressed comments. I fear the change that you outline is a long way off for most organisations in this place.
      Knowledge Expert
    • @Takenforgranted... good points and something rarely discussed...kudos.

      I guess one take is, the NBN/road analogy again...

      The government is giving us the ultimate (autobahn style) road and saying go for it. Whether we the public or businesses wish to utilise this road to it's fullest by buying a gleaming Ferrari to travel at 300kmh, investing in a truck, bus or taxi for business or just to plod along in old faithful, is entirely up to us and of course as you say, our budgets...

      Primarily as it is now, but on our 40-110kmh, older, worn, not so whiz-bang, non autobahn stye, privately (monopoly) owned "last mile" roads...!
  • I wouldn't stress too much. Labour and Conroy will be long gone by 2020 and the NBN is progressing at same rate as every thing this incompetent government has tried to do so be reassured the NBN will never be completed.