Mobile productivity and working add AU$43b to Australian economy

Thanks to increasing productivity and remote working facilitated by mobile technologies, AU$43 billion has been added to the Australian economy over the last year, according to a Deloitte report.

Australian Minister for Communications Mitch Fifield has launched a Deloitte research report commissioned by the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA) showing that mobile technology has impacted the country's workforce and productivity to the tune of AU$43 billion.

In its report, Mobile nation: The economic and social impacts of mobile technology, Deloitte found that long-term productivity made up AU$34 billion of this total, while workforce participation contributed AU$8.9 billion.

"Cumulatively, this report estimates that the economy is AU$42.9 billion larger in 2015 than it would otherwise be, because of the productivity and participation benefits arising from mobile," the report says.

"This represents 2.6 percent of GDP."

This increase in the Australian economy created the equivalent of 65,000 full-time jobs, or 1 percent of total employment, Deloitte said.

"Mobile is building both capital and labour productivity in Australia. M2M technologies and m-commerce allow for more productive use of capital. Productivity apps and the ability to communicate on the go have created a more productive workforce," the Deloitte report says.

"Mobile can also facilitate participation in the labour force. It enables people to work remotely, or meet their personal commitments while at work."

In producing the report, Deloitte surveyed over 1,000 Australians on their usage of mobile devices for work; conducted an econometric analysis to determine the rate of mobile penetration across 27 OECD nations; quantified the economic impacts of mobile usage in the workforce using dynamic computable general equilibrium modelling; and consulted with Able Australia, Per Capita Longevity Forum, Workible, and Jigsaw to gain further insight.

"Mobile allows employees to make more productive use of time, work more efficiently with productivity-enhancing tools such as mobile apps, and also allows more people to work, facilitates working more paid hours, and allows people to stay engaged and connected, thereby improving participation in the workforce," Deloitte Access Economics partner Ric Simes explained.

"Reducing barriers to employment can open up a new set of opportunities for people in these groups, and the flexibility offered by mobile is a real enabler here."

In addition to existing mobile technologies, the report also pointed towards the burgeoning usage of the Internet of Things (IoT) as a value adder, including for emerging technology such as drones, mobile wallets, and autonomous cars.

"It is estimated that globally around 5 billion mobile devices are in use, and with the rise of the IoT this is anticipated to grow to 6.4 billion in 2016 and 20.8 billion by 2020. Australia must ready itself for the opportunities this will deliver," AMTA chair Matthew Lobb said.

"It is clear that mobile will continue shaping the way Australians communicate, work, and interact. Harnessing the potential of new and existing technologies will be important for securing Australia's economic growth and living standards in the future."

The report also said the arrival of 5G in 2020 would lead to a jump in mobile technology, as well as allowing for better connectivity.

"The next wave of mobile developments in fifth generation mobile networks (5G) is positioned to address the evolving demands and business contexts of 2020 and beyond. It will allow a fully mobile and connected society where new possibilities such as autonomous driving and harnessing the full potential of connectivity through the IoT will be made a reality," the report said.

"5G will also bring significant benefits in speed, reliability and lower latency compared to previous generations of mobile technologies. These new 5G mobile technologies are anticipated to deliver significant economic benefits by lifting the level of productivity in the economy compared to previous mobile phone generations. Also, opportunities originating from the growth and creation of innovative industries and job markets will contribute to and support future growth."

In a similar vein, an Australian House of Representatives committee inquiry recommended on Tuesday that a Smart Infrastructure Task Force be formed to coordinate, plan, develop, maintain, and optimise infrastructure and national policy on IT.

Making use of new technologies and systems could boost the nation's economy; enable smart cities; enhance communications, public transport, energy, health, and water; increase productivity; improve quality of life; and better predict the effects of natural disasters, the House of Representatives committee said.

One of the primary impediments to the adoption of IoT and the future usage of mobile data is the allocation and availability of spectrum for mobile broadband, the Deloitte report added.

In order to deal with this, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) last month released its strategy for allocating and refarming mobile broadband spectrum, identifying a more flexible and "holistic" approach for allocating spectrum for mobile broadband rather than the previous strictly quantitative process.

While the ACMA found Australia has adequate spectrum for mobile broadband services for the short- and medium-term future, it is "very likely" that additional spectrum will be required in the long term.

The ACMA also recently told ZDNet that it is looking towards facilitating the spectrum needs associated with M2M technology and the IoT. In December, it released a set of proposed changes to spectrum regulations aimed at providing easier access to spectrum for IoT, with the ACMA looking at adding new frequency bands for in-ground ultra-wide bandwidth transmitters used in automated parking management systems; radio-determination transmitters used as industrial sensors; and analysis devices used for detecting objects in walls, ceilings, and floors.

The ACMA's head of Operations, Services and Technologies, Mark Loney, speaking at the RadComms event in Sydney last week, argued in favour of a default spectrum band for all IoT devices across the globe -- or, alternatively, sensors that can identify which country a device is operating in.

Fifield last week also announced the publication of the federal government's consultation paper concerning the overhaul of the legislation, licensing, and pricing of spectrum, saying the old legislation was so outdated as to be rendered "redundant".