There is little doubt that broadband speed and the pricing plans available in Australia would be unacceptable in many OECD economies. Rupert Murdoch famously described Australian broadband as a “disgrace”.

Often, my Telstra wireless speed in Mosman seems little quicker than my experience with the dial-up service I used in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia last year.

Interestingly, the recent results of the “networked-readiness index” produced by the World Economic Forum generated little discussion in Australia. The index is extremely significant from a business perspective as it ranks countries according to their potential to utilise internet-based technologies to increase economic growth.

The top five countries in this regard were Denmark, Sweden, Singapore, Finland and Switzerland. Where did Australia fit into this list? Actually, surprisingly well. Australia ranked No.15, ahead of Germany and South Korea. However, the index factors in the willingness of citizens to use information and communication technology as well as the infrastructure available.

Real broadband opens up many business opportunities. The corollary is that a country lacking real broadband is going to miss these opportunities. Until the recent Labor announcement on broadband, the business community has generally been MIA over this critical issue.

How to improve broadband in this country is a real, significant debate that must be had and a debate that business as a whole should be much more vigorously involved in. It is also not only a debate whose outcomes will have a monumental impact on business productivity, but a debate with a massive impact on issues such as delivering government services.

The faster broadband, the greater the move towards the e-delivery of government services and the greater the savings for the taxpayer. The greater the savings for the taxpayer, the less tax is required from business — and the virtuous circle continues.

Perhaps business should outsource its campaigning on this issue to Getup! They seem to have got a better result on David Hicks in six months than business has managed to get on broadband in the past six years.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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