He’s been lambasted for offering up flakey and technologically wonky arguments for the Federal Government’s controversial Web filtering scheme.
He was initially derided for refusing to open up on the national broadband network (NBN) tender process.
And, in general, Senator Stephen Conroy has been regarded as a bit of a dead weight, hanging ominously from the Rudd Government’s collective neck.
To say the least, the last 12 months have not been good for the Senator as far as his public approval ratings have gone. He might have won the respect of a few industry sources, or so we hear, but as far as the punters go what happens behind closed doors stays behind closed doors.
But since the NBN announcement where KRudd effectively pulled a gold nugget out of his, um, you know where to promise the nation its largest infrastructure project in our history – complete with jobs, jobs, potential forgiveness to Telstra, and the allure of business opportunity for all on the back of a nitrate-fuelled broadband network – things have been looking up for Conroy.
By virtue of his intimate proximity to KRudd on the day of the announcement, standing to attention at dear leader’s shoulder, and his more than passable performance at selling the NBN idea, our communications minister has almost stopped being the object of much common distaste in the ICT community. I say almost because there is still the poisonous issue of the Web filtering scheme, which very well could be the Senator’s undoing come election time.
But overall, since that fateful $43 billion day, there is a sense of grudging acceptance of Conroy becoming evident and one gets the feeling his minders are trying to leverage it with all their might – even going as far as drawing on the Jesus phone.
At CeBIT this week, where Conroy gave the opening speech for the AusInnovate conference, he made reference to the iPhone and Apple’s success with generating developer interest.
“The iPhone is another example that highlights how enabling platforms create a powerful drive for ICT innovation,” he said when talking about the NBN’s potential as an enabling platform.
Conroy’s media representative was eager to point out the senator also has his own iPhone 3G and “loves it”. While we didn’t find out what version he has and whether he uses it for work – if that is even allowed for government ministers with access to the country’s most confidential information (anyone?) – the tactic was clear.
Associate a Senator that is trying to boost his fragile NBN-driven popularity with the iPhone 3G – one of the most popular devices of all time. And why not, when the NBN is arguably the best idea he has been attached to and the momentum is in his favour.
But whether the Jesus phone association is an intentional strategy or not, thankfully most of my journalist colleagues have so far paid little heed. There are simply too many hefty issues facing the ICT industry that need to be thrashed out – such as the makeup of the NBN company and how to reinvigorate spending on IT, which has dropped off a cliff over the past few months.
So Senator, good on you for knowing what the iPhone is and accurately pointing out Apple's success with developers. But don't for a moment think it will help you win over the ICT community. They’ve been there and done that – and the Jesus phone isn’t going to resurrect your popularity. Only tangible results on the NBN and a drastic re-think of the Web filtering scheme will do that. I like the Jesus phone, but in this economic climate I'd take more runs on the board for this industry ahead of it any day of the week.