Saturday, June 02, 2007

Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics - Part 1

There has been much public debate about broadband over recent weeks and the Canberra Times ran a story which Helen Coonan latched onto to expose Labor's "Furphy" in the debate.

The central claim being that Labor was overstating the potential economic benefits of broadband by relying on a 2001 study, the bulk of the forecast benefits of which would already be achieved. A few days later we had a flurry of activity when Market Clarity questioned the validity of the broadband league table published by the OECD.

All this reflects how far away we are from the kind of debate that Telstra's Phil Burgess tells us is what he has been trying to encourage. In a speech to the Australia British Chamber of Commerce this week he talked admiringly of William Wilberforce and went on to explain his relevance to fact based public policy. While Phil then tried to provide a speech based on facts, unfortunately I think many of them fell into the categories above. My favourite remains the idea that high speed broadband will make mammography more widely available - cause it appears to me the investment limitter there isn't the specialist staff it is the cost of the bloody machine - but maybe I'm wrong. Hopefully Dr Phil's speech will make it unto Telstra's nowwewaretalking site (see links).

A small aside. The word "furphy" comes from a brand of water cart. These were used by Australian troops in WWI and it was at the cart that people would pick up and spread rumours. Furphy had a slogan on the end of the tanks on the carts that went "Good better best, we will never rest, till our good is better, and our better best" which was also the last brand campaign run by Telecom Australia before the merger with OTC and becoming Telstra!

I do seem to keep using that title though.

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