With a focus on the broader socio-economic benefits of a National Broadband Network (NBN), the various governments have to establish more clarity in its trans-sector vision. There is a rather urgent need for an across-department approach. There is a trans-sector team operating from within the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet in Australia, as there is a similar one within the White House, but this now needs be followed up with further action.
The next step should be the appointment of a powerful CIO/CTO who should be involved in identifying what SOA will be required to deliver these trans-sector services via the NBN. A detailed trans-sectoral e-strategies report should also be developed under his/her leadership. KPIs should be set for each sector and this hopefully will lead to innovative and competitive action from the departments in developing their own policies on how best to deliver their services via the NBN.
The key to success here is to remove obstacles that are in the way. As an example, at present e-health cannot be claimed back under current health care insurance policies, and utilities are prohibited from investing in smart technologies. The proposed telecoms reforms are aimed at removing long-standing obstacles in this sector – obstacles that have discouraged the industry from embracing new developments in telecoms. Once these obstacles are removed people will most likely accept the changes – with most people sharing the broader visions they will feel empowered to put effort into them.
The federal CIO/CTO will also need to take on a coordinating role with other levels of government (local and state) as the services will eventually need to be delivered along these lines. At present there is a serious lack of coordination between the roles that the federal, state and local governments will have to play in this. In order to retain the public support that the NBN is currently enjoying the government also needs to inform and educate the people on these trans-sector developments.
Such a policy direction is also needed to start ‘sizing the socio-economic prize’ of a trans-sector approach to the NBN. This includes off-balance sheet items such as cost savings, as well as projected GDP growth. There is a clear call for such economic data, which is essential to create the business case to deliver on the political promise that the NBN is good for the country.
We now need to begin to set goals that can be precisely measured. This needs to be complemented by specific roles and responsibilities, sound management structures, timetables and lines of communications with the CIO/CTO, and through this to other departments.
In the end it is rather simple. Hard-nosed economists are right when they say that the NBN will not be economically viable if we base it on our current Internet/broadband use. It is the trans-sector approach that merits the government’s involvement. However key sectors that will profit from the NBN are under the control of the government and it is therefore the government that must develop policies and strategies that will see these sectors using and benefiting from this massive investment.