WE NEED SKILLS AND INFRASTRUCTURE FOR THE DIGITAL ECONOMY

The world is changing faster than most of us realise. We may not see it in our day-to-day lives but the digital revolution in Australia is here and the opportunities it presents are boundless.

The economy, along with the type of jobs Australians have now and in the future, are rapidly changing.

The countries that have the strongest digital infrastructure will stand to reap the greatest benefits of the digital economy.

The world is changing faster than most of us realise. We may not see it in our day-to-day lives but the digital revolution in Australia is here and the opportunities it presents are boundless. The economy, along with the type of jobs Australians have now and in the future, are rapidly changing.

A recent study by Oxford University indicated that up to 47 per cent of today’s jobs could be at risk of being automated in the next two decades. While that may sound alarming it’s important to remember that the digital economy will bring opportunities that most of us cannot possibly imagine.

We must keep in mind that the jobs, wealth and new opportunities of the digital economy will not create themselves. They must be built. Built on the strong digital infrastructure of our country and technical skills of our people.

That’s why Labor planned and started construction of the National Broadband Network (NBN) and recently announced it would invest in teaching science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) skills in our schools by supporting 25,000 new teachers and funding 100,000 new STEM university degrees. Labor will also introduce computer coding into our national curriculum so that our kids are best equipped to thrive and prosper in the digital economy.

Projects like the Macquarie House Innovation Hub in Launceston are a first step into a digital future and give us a glimpse of endless opportunities that may lie ahead for Tasmania and the nation as a whole.

Firstly, we must recognise that the rise of Asia presents us with enormous opportunity. By 2030 there will be 3.2 billion consumers driving economic growth in the region. In turn, this has driven a race to tap into the rising prosperity of Asia. We know that small business and corporations are now driven by data collection and analysis as they compete for a greater market share. Australian businesses must be ready. As a nation we must also be ready. If we get the policy settings right and make the smart strategic decisions we can unlock opportunity, jobs and wealth for all Australians.

The countries that have the strongest digital infrastructure will stand to reap the greatest benefits of the digital economy. However, Australia risks being left behind if we don’t take the digitisation of the global economy seriously.

New Zealand is already way ahead of us. As the Abbott Government rolls out its second rate NBN, New Zealand is already building its own network, the Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB). This will connect 80 per cent of New Zealanders to fibre to the premises. In fact, New Zealand has been a world leader in this space and had built a fibre to the node (FTTN) network at the end of the last decade. New Zealand is now committed to building fibre to the premises so they are better positioned to tap into the Asian century.

New Zealand is not the only one. Our key trading partners in the region – including Japan, South Korea and Singapore – have all built, or are building, fibre to the premises networks.

Australia must do all it can. But at the moment we are falling further and further behind in the broadband rankings, a situation only getting worse under the Abbott Government. It is common knowledge in the technology sector that the copper upgrade being rolled out by Malcom Turnbull is redundant.

Worse, the Abbott Government is rolling out their second rate network too slowly. In 2013, Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull promised their second rate NBN would reach all Australians by 2016. The latest forecast is now 2020.

Consider this: by 2020, 30 per cent of Australians will end up with what New Zealander’s had at the end of 2010, which they have since determined just isn’t good enough if they are to compete in Asia.

Australia has to do better.

Opening up regional trade opportunities is just the beginning. Take for example the health and aged care sectors. The digital economy will deliver rapid and wide spread benefits that can drive this sector to efficiencies and better outcomes for patients and clients.

Telehealth can provide unparalleled access to health care allowing patients to monitor their own well-being and receive advice from their GP via a video link. Advancements like this require a stable and reliable broadband connection that Labor’s NBN planned to deliver.

Aged-care provider Feros Care predicts that if half of their nurses’ visits are done using NBN-enabled telehealth, each nurse would save 7,700kms in travel, 161 hours of travel time, and almost double the number of clients they can see each year.

The digital economy presents us with both challenges and opportunities. It will change the nature of work as we know it today, but will better equip our businesses to capitalise on the prosperity of the Asian Century. In the face of an aging population, it will help us to manage health costs and provide better services to patients and clients. These and other opportunities of the digital economy are only limited by our imagination.

But the mediocrity, sloganeering and broken promises characteristic of the Abbott Government will not get us there.

Only Labor will ensure that our future generations have the skills and infrastructure needed to thrive and succeed in the digital economy.