Digital economy misses out amid feted NBN

Trans-sector discussions to be held after budget

ACS CEO Kim Denham. Credit ACS

ACS CEO Kim Denham. Credit ACS

The viability of the National Broadband Network (NBN) is at risk after the budget failed to address how it will be used by government departments, according to the Australian Computer Society (ACS).

The IT interest group said the budget, handed down in Canberra on Tuesday, did not address critical regulatory and policy frameworks to ensure the integration of health, education and security into the government's “digital economy”.

ACS chief executive Kin Denham said services such as e-learning and e-health must be addressed separately to the NBN.

“Beyond this basic [NBN] infrastructure, Australia is sitting on a golden egg when it comes to our digital economy,” Denham said in a written statement.

“It’s disappointing that some of these segments which may hold the greatest opportunity for our economy appear to be largely unaddressed within this year’s budget.”

Trans-sector issues will be evaluated after the budget, according to Communications Minister Stephen Conroy, and following discussions with government departments and organisations including the Australian Council of Trade Unions.

Conroy last week pledged to discuss regulatory and strategic issues surrounding the NBN, raised by telecommunications industry experts, including the Digital Economy Industry Work Group (DEIWG). He will consult with government departments and utilities regarding issues including trans-sector cooperation after receiving formal skills discussion and greenfields paper from the group.

Industry lobbyists broadly agreed that government must consider whether existing health and education networks should be annexed to the NBN by regulation, and how it will ensure open and equivocal access. The group is collaborating on a response to the government's regulatory reform paper, due to be issued in June this year.

Denham broadly praised the government's ICT budget measures, but warned the government's higher education incentives, which follow the Bradley Review, must be linked to “skills foresighting” to ensure university courses are aligned with skills required by industry.

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