Broadband is no longer just a computer thing but rather, a means of furthering national policy objectives, according to the director of UK consultancy, Publicani, Dr Tim Williams.
Dr Williams, author of the report, Connecting Communities, was speaking at a session on connecting communities in the digital economy at the National Digital Inclusion Summit.
The report focuses on the impact of broadband on the regional economic growth and employment opportunities.
“It seems to me in the economy, health, education, transport, citizen engagement and community development environments, the objective is not to build a national network but a network nation in which no citizen or community is left behind,” he said.
The aim of the session was to identify what the problems are in terms of digital exclusion and how we use technology to include as much of the community as possible.
Dr Williams defined the digital inclusion as the best use of digital technology, directly or indirectly, to improve the lives and chances of all citizens – particularly the most disadvantaged, and the places in which they live.
According to him, the results of his report show the dangers of adding digital to socio-economic and in the geographical exclusion, the need for it to be avoided and the call for a new effort to get more Australian communities online.
He stated that it is critical for all in the nation to be in the network, regardless of having a government with many tiers.
“That coordinated effort by the central, state and local governments working with the community sector to maximise the use of broadband and its services will produce a need to get online,” he said.
Dr Williams claimed the delivery of government services and programs can benefit from high-speed broadband – which is where the NBN could have the most impact and most savings.
He suggested it include a plan for improving performance in sectors such as consumer welfare, civic participation, public safety, community development, healthcare and education.
Dr Williams identified the key challenge featured in the report as the rebuilding and the re-attracting of lifestyle entrepreneurs.
One of his propositions is to encourage use by getting people over the age of 40, the unemployed, those in social housing and the disabled to use the technology.
He said the challenge for Australia on broadband not only being about access but also about barriers to use is eventually a democracy issue.
“You have got to be in it to win it. If you are not digitally literate, you will not get those benefits and that is the challenge,” Dr. Williams concluded.