Editorial: Gigabytes and gibberish ¹

THERE is little doubt digital data technology has revolutionised much in our lives.

THERE is little doubt digital data technology has revolutionised everything from televisions, cameras and telephones to cars, computers and newspapers.

The past 15 years have seen the technology creep into the fabric of life. We are now reliant on it in some way, shape or form. Texting and email have become a part of everyday life. As such, we know it works. We know its advantages.

But many of us remain wary of the obsessive computer geek who rants gibberish about the latest technology. Incomprehensible jargon with grand, majestic statements are a cause for mistrust.

This is a problem for the federal and state governments in the $43 billion National Broadband Network rollout.

Take for example, Tasmanian senator Carol Brown, who says the NBN is the “largest nation-building project in our history”. What’s that mean exactly?

“It will be an enabling platform across the economy, critical for small businesses, future healthcare delivery, the education of our young people and our ability to work cleaner, smarter faster,” she says.

What’s an enabling platform?

She goes on to say it will “help drive productivity and increase growth”. How?

Australian Computer Society president Anthony Wong says the NBN will start a revolution in online services.

“Technology underpins all forms of production, transport and communication, and enables the delivery of an enormous range of products and services in eduction, banking, health and entertainment,” Mr Wong said.

What services? What products?

In layman’s terms, why would a Midway Point householder connect?

This has not been properly explained.

We have heard grand statements about the revolution, but, in plain English, how will it change our lives?

If people do not understand, they will not connect.

NBN Tasmania chairman Doug Campbell predicts fewer than 30 per cent of premises will take up its service in the first few years and industry sources suggest 17 per cent.

In December, Telstra offered a million cable customers in Melbourne three-times faster download speeds on a two-year contract (at similar speeds to the NBN), but in the first few months only a few hundred took up the offer.

The world’s most comprehensive optic-fibre rollout, in South Korea, has attracted only 39 per cent of households.

How will it go down in Tassie?

The State Government is funding forums statewide to help explain the NBN and the Tourism Industry Council of Tasmania, the Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association, the Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Tasmanian Small Business Council are promoting its benefits.

The Tasmanian public’s reaction to the NBN will set the tone for the national rollout. Any perception problems in Scottsdale can be expected to be replicated everywhere from Greendale, in Victoria, to Coffs Harbour, in New South Wales.

At this stage — only weeks from the first connections — the information has been far from grounded.

Combined with early issues about training and workplace practices, the rollout has got off to a shaky start.

With Tony Abbott vowing to wind back the rollout and ready to pounce on the slightest slip, it is imperative it goes to plan — the political survival of the Rudd Government may depend on it.

Every Tasmanian home, business, school and hospital is set to get high-speed broadband.

That sounds great, but how will that affect Gary and Norm down at the local, or Shane and Barry at the sawmill, or Terry and Sue at the school, or Maria and Dan down on the farm? We need to know.

¹ sourced: themercury.com.au

© 2010, Scott Evans. Creative Commons License
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