Monday, May 30, 2011

The excitement builds ...

I was I think justifiably critical of the way the Budget papers dealt with Australia's future. After discussing an economy in transition the most it could find to say was a throw-away line on the NBN.

As a number of papers in a special issue of the Telecommunications Journal of Australia have noted the NBN needs to be accompanied by other strategy elements.

Tomorrow we get to hear the details. As advised via Twitter;

Remember – Min. Conroy #CeBitAUS address webcast live from via tomorrow morning 9am 31 May #nbn #digitaleconomy (see note below)

As a foretaste of what we should hope to hear, The Economist this week ran a special on Australia. It had a excellent summary of the numbers. This was added to with a little admonition, drawing on comparisons with California, about the opportunity we face;

Australians must now decide what sort of country they want their children to live in. They can enjoy their prosperity, squander what they do not consume and wait to see what the future brings; or they can actively set about creating the sort of society that other nations envy and want to emulate. California, for many people still the state of the future, may hold some lessons. Its history also includes a gold rush, an energy boom and the development of a thriving farm sector. It went on to reap the economic benefits of an excellent higher-education system and the knowledge industries this spawned. If Australia is to fulfil its promise, it too will have to unlock the full potential of its citizens’ brain power.

Australia cannot, of course, do exactly what California did (eg, create an aerospace industry and send the bill to the Pentagon). Nor would it want to: thanks to its addiction to ballot initiatives, Californian politics is a mess. But it could do more to develop the sort of open, dynamic and creative society that California has epitomised, drawing waves of energetic immigrants not just from other parts of America but from all over the world. Such societies, the ones in which young and enterprising people want to live, cannot be conjured up overnight by a single agent, least of all by government. They are created by the alchemy of artists, entrepreneurs, philanthropists, civic institutions and governments coming together in the right combination at the right moment. And for Australia, economically strong as never before, this is surely such a moment.

That really does sum up the challenge - and much of that can be rolled into the rubric of "the Digital Economy" if by that term we mean an entire economy transformed by the digital revolution, not a subset of it (as the current Government definition has it).

The challenge for Government is real. Even those with an excessive faith in markets see a requirement for Government action - if only to further de-regulate. The economist puts it differently saying;

...government should not seek to direct the chemistry, it should create the conditions for it. That means ensuring that the economy remains open, flexible and resilient, capable ...

And while critical of the relative torpor of our Government, they also understand it, writing;

Some politicians win power and do not know what to do with it. Others come to office determined to change everything and end up doing nothing. A respectable case can be made, in certain places at certain times, for concentrating on good management and making only a few big changes, but making them well. In Australia, this case rests not just on the thoroughness of the 1983-2003 reforms but on the fact that the economy has recently passed a stress test that all other rich countries’ economies to some degree failed. The global financial crisis did not pass Australia by, but neither did it drive it into recession.

The special has a cute 3 minute video that concludes with the same line as one of the articles;

The tyranny of distance, so long Australia’s enduring curse, has been turned on its head. It is now the Antipodean advantage of adjacency.

I wonder if "the Antipodean advantage of adjacency" will catch on ... Googling however only turned up regurgitations and this piece which says;

The behavioural economics/finance guy in me has to ask the question whether the Economist magazine did indeed set out to do a hatchet job on Australia but found the story so compelling they ended up pulping their initial intent. Seems like it has to be a chance, doesn’t it?

Anyhow, let's see how the Australian Government handles it when it does address those issues about being an "open, dynamic and creative society? We can but hope.

Note: Interestingly the mini-link in the DBCDE tweet takes you to the Government's NBN site ( which even has an Australian Government logo (in the mode mandated by John Howard - coat of arms, Australian Government {over} National Broadband Network)

Novae Meridianae Demetae Dexter delenda est

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