National ICT Australia (NICTA) specialises in researching and commercialising new technologies for the ICT industry and is funded by the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (DBCDE) and the Australian Research Council.
NICTA CEO, David Skellern, who has been in his post since 2007 and has 20 years in the ICT sector, was one of several keynote speakers discussing strategies for Australia’s National Broadband Network (NBN) at the recent CeBIT show. He sat down with ARN to discuss the viability of the largest ICT infrastructure project in Australia’s history, as well as Internet filtering and why our industry needs more unity. Skellern will be retiring next year to head over to the UK.
In your opinion, how is the NBN shaping up?
It appears to be getting underway and NBN Co is a very focused group. I know they already have some activities in Tasmania and I expect the company is going to get the network in place. Mike Quigley [NBN Co executive chairman] is a very determined man and I’m sure he’s doing what he says he’s going to do, which is to roll the NBN out according to plan.
How will the NBN affect NICTA as a company?
For NICTA, the NBN is this amazing enabler. It focuses our research and ensures a lot of our research is going to have a place to go and a place to be used. A lot of people talk about the speed of the NBN but I don’t think the speed is that important. There will be enough speed. The more important point is the NBN will be connected to everybody. We will have everybody in Australia covered with good speed [Internet] coverage and that means we are able to look at offering services across the economy that can get to everybody.
There are people out there with doubts about the NBN and its viability. Some say it costs too much and others think the way it is rolled out is ineffective. Are their doubts justified?
I’m not a naysayer of the NBN. I think there is a lot of ways you can deliver the service and I don’t think how it is delivered is all that important as long as it gets done. The design, again, I have faith in Mike Quigley and his team to do the best job they can with the funds they’ve got. It is much more important we understand this is going to be transformational to our society.
It’s really going to be as though we are connected to each other, to businesses and to governments through the Internet. NBN will be the infrastructure that will enable an enormous number of new applications. I think it’s that capability that will make Internet access a fundamental right for Australians.
To really reap the benefits of the NBN, we have to think about the services we will put in place [using the NBN] and how they are going to be used to grow the digital economy. The digital economy is going to be the powerhouse of Australia’s future and a thing that drives our economy forward.
What are your views on Internet filtering?
I don’t have much of a view on it. I’m not in favour of censoring. But I filter stuff coming into our network at work. There are legitimate reasons to filter and the Government has a requirement to deliver what the people want. Some people want filtering of different types of content and perhaps the Government has a role to play in that regard.
I think Internet filtering is extremely difficult to do. It’s a bit like cyber security. Yes, we have to do cyber security but the guys on the other side of the fence are always going to be working on how to get around everything you put in place and I suspect this will be the same for Internet filtering.
I’ll make one general statement which also applies to security and privacy. The way to attack those issues is to legislate and, in my view that’s the most effective way. If you think things shouldn’t be done, you legislate against them and you police the regulations. We are not doing this adequately in all sorts of areas such as in copyright and God knows what else. Take people through the legal system and shut people down who are doing the wrong thing.