Broadband is a transformative utility forcing companies to digitise their businesses, according to IBM Australia and New Zealand managing director, Andrew Stevens.
"It's a utility the likes of which we've never seen before, and every economic age we've seen since the beginning of recorded history has been associated with a utility of some form," Stevens said in a keynote sponsored by the American Chamber of Commerce.
"The wheel, the steam engine, electrical power. Now, high-speed broadband."
However, Stevens is not worried about the fate of the NBN in the wake of September's federal election, he said. The means to bringing faster broadband to Australia doesn’t matter as long as it comes soon, he said.
“The key from our point of view is how do we get faster speed and how do we get the broadband available faster,” Stevens told Computerworld Australia.
“I don’t think it’s overly politicised,” he said. “I’m not overly worried about it because everybody is talking about different models about how [to] get there.”
Stevens said he doesn’t expect NBN speeds in Australia to be as fast as some other countries like Korea and Singapore.
“I think we’ll find it’s not enough,” he said. But it’s better to have 100Mbps speeds soon than something faster a long time from now, he said.
In addition to faster broadband, Stevens predicted that digital wallets will soon revolutionise companies’ business models.
“Some form of digital stored value will be really important,” Stevens said. “It’s the next step.”
“I think we’ll find that with the convergence of business models that’s coming because of digital transformation, there will be big many players who will be very, very serious.”
Security and privacy will be major factors in deciding the winner of the digital wallet wars, Stevens said. “People are going to guard [their identities] with their life.”
In his keynote, Stevens said companies must immediately digitise their businesses if they want to survive. That includes embracing cloud computing and big data analysis, he said.
“It’s time to get on with it,” he said. “There’s an urgent need to respond to the trends that are happening here in business because the competitiveness of this nation, the productivity of our business sector and therefore the prosperity of our nation quite frankly are at stake.”
This is the year to start, Stevens said. “If you’re not in shape and well established in your trajectory on this journey by 2015, it’s too late.”
Stevens identified three ways forward. The first path is to use digital technologies to make operations more efficient. A second path is to convert products and services “not only into bits and bytes but into something that is quite different in nature.”
“Part three involves doing both of these at the same time,” he said. “This is the approach that most of the non-traditional competitors are following.”
Stevens stressed that the “tectonic shift” represented by the move to digital affects everyone.
“Digital transformation will touch every single one of you, and it will affect your employees, your business partners and all of your customers,” he said.
“All but 15 of the 509 industry classes that make up the Australian economy ... will be positively impacted.”
However, “you can’t stand still and be positively impacted,” he said.
“There will be turmoil, there will be disruption and there will be a significant change in terms of market share and competitive spending.”
Follow Adam Bender on Twitter: @WatchAdam