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 (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 NBN.gov.au 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:
- Business and non-profits
- 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.