DOMINATING the national broadband network debate has been the question of whether Australia needs the technology.
This has been at the expense of the more important question, according to the Internet Society of Australia, of what we’re going to do with it.
Ballarat is set to become one of the first locations to connect to the NBN, and this week, a diverse group of community and business leaders came together with the Internet Society of Australia to discuss the implications for our city.
Ballarat already has some of the best broadband in regional Australia, but with live connectivity to the NBN fast approaching, how prepared are our community and business groups to take it on?
Internet Society of Australia president Narelle Clark, who attended Tuesday’s NBN forum in Ballarat, said the city had “tremendous” opportunities to take advantage of the technology.
But she said more education was needed to tackle the digital divide.
“Ballarat’s got a good advantage of skills, population, location and history and it should be able to take advantage of those things,” she said.
“There will be some innovative people who will be able to take tremendous advantage and there will be some left scratching their heads.”
She said the politics surrounding the technology had clouded the issue.
“The rest of the world is getting on with it — it’s only in Australia that wireless has become a right wing issue and fibre has become a left wing issue,” she said.
“It has led to some uncertainty in some minds.”
Ballarat ICT executive officer Ian Fry believes the NBN’s arrival in Ballarat is crucial if the city wants to level the playing field with metropolitan businesses.
He said Ballarat ICT recently completed a survey on manufacturing which highlighted the potential benefits the NBN could bring to Ballarat business.
“It’s essential we have the NBN so we have the same competitive advantages that capital cities do,” he said.
“NBN is an instrument of what we can do things on — it’s like a big highway.”
Australian Industry Group (AIG) Regional Manager Kay Macaulay said there had been rapid change already: only two years ago many of their members didn’t have websites or email addresses for their businesses.
With the NBN now approaching, the AIG and the City of Ballarat will host an event this month to help companies better understand the growth opportunities high speed broadband could bring.
“Now it’s quite timely and it’s real and its going to happen, there are a lot of people out there who may not know what it’s going to do for their business,” Ms Macaulay said.