OVER a million Australian premises are currently switched on to the National Broadband Network but it hasn’t been enough to prevent us slipping in the global rankings of a internet-based performance indicator.
Australia’s ranking when it comes to “networked readiness” has slipped from 16th to 18th, according to the World Economic Forum’s global information technology report for 2016.
Network readiness is an assessment of how well a country is positioned to take advantage of emerging communication technologies — basically, the economic agileness that Malcolm Turnbull likes to go on about.
As the report puts it: the Network Readiness Index “assesses the factors, policies and institutions that enable a country to fully leverage information and communication technologies for increased competitiveness and wellbeing.”
In 2004 Australia ranked ninth in the global index.
The unflattering result mirrors Australia’s declining standing in terms of internet speeds in which we are currently ranked 56th in the world.
The WEF report looks at a huge range of factors including the average number of days it takes to start a business, mobile network coverage as percentage of population, use of virtual social networks, percentage of households with internet access and the level of technology absorption in business.
While Australia had a “stable overall score” the report pointed to the fact that “broadband subscriptions remain particularly expensive” as an impediment to “readiness”.
It also pointed to the Turnbull government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda as crucial in “bridging some of the gaps” as we transition from the mining boom to a more knowledge based economy.
Australian Industry Group chief Innes Willox said despite the efforts from all sides of politics to improve our digital readiness, Australia clearly still has some way to go to regain a place inside the world’s top 10.
“The 2016 result is disappointing, especially at a time of economic and political uncertainty when we should be doing all we can to improve our productive performance at all levels and through all means,” Mr Willox said in a statement.
He said there is a clear gap between the top seven ranked economies and other advanced economies.
Singapore, northern Europe and the US dominate the rankings as businesses embrace new digital technologies and innovations as core parts of their operations.
Even Iceland and New Zealand have edged ahead of Australia in the past year.
“This serves as a reminder that if we do not work harder to continue to improve our competitiveness, we will be further left behind by other advanced economies,”
NBN REMAINS A BITTER BATTLEGROUND
The report comes a day after Australian politicians continued to exchange barbs over the handling of the national broadband network — considered to be the vital backbone of the country’s digital future.
Speaking to ABC radio Tuesday night, former Labor Communication Minister Stephen Conroy called for the resignation of NBN Co. chairman Ziggy Switkowski over what he called “illegal” police raids of his office in regards to a number of NBN leaks.
Among other things, the leaks revealed cost blowouts and delays due to the poor state of Telstra’s copper network used in the Coalition’s version of the NBN.
Mr Conroy’s office, and that of a separate Labor staffer, were raided back in Mayafter the taxpayer funded company referred the matter of the leaks to the AFP.
“I’ve written to the federal police on Friday, asking them to end their ludicrous investigation into leaks from the NBN on the basis of legal advice that says NBN Co have incorrectly called the police in,” Conroy said.
“They are not Commonwealth officers and I’m seeking and demanding an end to the investigation and an apology from Ziggy Switkowski, an apology from Mitch Fifield who’s overseen this, and that Ziggy Switkowski resign over it.”
In response, incumbent Communications Minister Mitch Fifield shut down any talk of an apology saying the raids were “perfectly entitled” and “very reasonable”.
With the Coalition primed to potentially form government, the remainder of the rollout is all but guaranteed to be deployed with the Coalition’s approach to use a range of different technologies.
However with the very real potential the party will have to cut a deal with crossbenchers to gain the majority it needs to govern, not all NBN advocates are losing hope of a return to Labor’s superior full fibre rollout — however faint that may be.