[LINK] Connecting Communities With Broadband

Tom Worthington tom.worthington at tomw.net.au
Thu Feb 3 15:22:09 AEDT 2011

The report "Connecting Communities: The impact of broadband on
communities in the UK and its implications for Australia" by Dr Tim
Williams was was launched with a talk at the National Press Club in
Canberra today at 12 noon. The report was sponsored by Huawei and draws 
lessons from the UK for Australia. Available are the Executive Summary, 
The full "Williams Report" and Release from Huawei: 

Themes of the report were the importance of access to high speed 
broadband for social and economic reasons. This is is something Huawei 
should be happy with as a major provider of equipment for both fibre 
optic and wireless broadband networks. However, from a public policy 
point of view I do not agree that high speed broadband is most 
important. The skills to use the Internet are more important and will 
provide more value to society, with the use of low speed broadband, or 
even narrowband.

The report is timely as submissions to the parliamentary inquiry into
the NBN close on 25 February 2011 

Dr. Williams claimed the report provided a "balanced scorecard" approach
for broadband in various areas. The chapter on "High Speed Broadband
Towards With a Low Carbon Future" was particularly interesting to me as
I teach Green ICT this to IT professionals around the world:

What was disappointing about this report was that I could find no
mention of the differences between the UK and Australia in terms of
population density and area. The UK is tiny compared to Australia, but
even so has difficulty providing broadband to remote areas. Overlaid on
a map of Australia, the UK would look like a postage stamp.

Also it is frustrating to have to have someone from the UK come and tell
the Australian government what to do with broadband, when there are
world class experts in the field within a few KM of Parliament House. 
But then it is useful to have an outsider to tell you what should be the
obvious. ;-)

After Dr Williams, Peter Quarmby from Community Sector Banking
(representative of Bendigo and Adelaide Bank Limited) announced they
would sponsor a summit on connecting communities later in the year:

Unfortunately Huawei have chosen to reserve all rights to the "Williams
Report" with a copyright notice, making it difficult for Australia to
make use of the lessons in the report. In addition the work is presented
as a poorly formatted PDF document making use of it for education very
difficult. Huawei may wish to consider re-releasing the report with a
Creative Commons licence and formatted as web pages meeting Australian
accessibility standards, allowing wider use of the material.

Curiously, apart from the announcement of today's launch I could find no
reference to this work on the web, not even on Dr. Williams blog. It
seems odd that what claims to be a major study was conducted without
leaving any presence online. It might well be that there are details of
how the project was planned and executed online somewhere, but I could
not find it.

Recommendations include:

* Establish a formal national survey into current patterns of broadband
use by individuals and diverse communities
  * Appointment of a National Digital Champion by government – a
distinguished lay enthusiast drawn from outside politics and the
industry to help galvanise enthusiasm
* A network of local and sector digital champions
* Set a target for all to be digitally literate by 2020 and establish
the duty to draw up a digital participation plan by all public service
* Legislate so that the regulator ACMA (the Australian Communications
and Media Authority) has a duty to promote digital inclusion
* All public agencies to review how new broadband capacity can transform
the design and delivery of services and the process of engagement
* National and state summits of third sector organisations to share
best-practice and agree on plans of action for digital inclusion
* A national annual digital participation week with national awards
* Concession Passes for over 65s
* Establish a national helpline to support those that are having
difficulty accessing the internet
* Facilitate a volunteering program so that young people and other
volunteers can “buddy-up” with the elderly online
* Government to commit to open source principles and sharing data ...

From: Executive Summary, Connecting Communities: The impact of broadband
on communities in the UK and its implications for Australia, Dr Tim
Williams 2011:

Tom Worthington FACS CP HLM, TomW Communications Pty Ltd. t: 0419496150
PO Box 13, Belconnen ACT 2617, Australia  http://www.tomw.net.au
Adjunct Senior Lecturer, School of Computer Science, The
Australian National University http://cs.anu.edu.au/courses/COMP7310/
Visiting Scientist, CSIRO ICT Centre: http://bit.ly/csiro_ict_canberra

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