IBM Australia managing director, Glen Boreham, has called for greater public education around the benefits of plugging into a digital economy.
Releasing the findings of an IBM-commissioned report by think tank, Access Economics, titled The economic benefits of intelligent technologies, the head of Big Blue down under said the economic rewards to be reaped by embracing the Government’s national broadband network (NBN) and other smart technology systems were vast.
“We know the world has the potential to become digitally instrumented; to become digitally aware,” Boreham told journalists at a briefing in Sydney.
While praising the inclusion of ICT-driven initiatives in the Federal Budget last week – including the $100 million to be invested in a new smart technology National Energy Efficiency Initiative – Boreham said there hadn’t been enough buy in from Government and the public at large.
“I think one of the best ways we can get the broader community to come along with us on this smart infrastructure journey is to establish some proof points,” he said. “If we do that with the smart grid announcement where the Government are looking at targeting a city or a regional area of Australia and putting this in and making it work, we can point to the rest of Australia and say here are the benefits, this isn’t intellectual or Denmark, this is Australia and it is real. That investment the Government made in the budget is the type we have been calling for and we just need more of it.”
The IBM head also claimed super computing and the NBN would facilitate the interconnection of the increasing number of devices in the world along with smart systems.
“Unfortunately. we have been dealt a set of economic cards that none of us like, but that does give us the opportunity to do things that we may have not done a couple of years ago when we were in an economy that had 16 years of unbroken economic growth, record corporate profits,” Boreham said.
“… there is an opportunity to address not just the current quarter or current year imperatives of battling the global financial crisis but to make some plays and investments that will set Australia up for when the economy does invariably turn.”
Report FindingsThe Access Economics’ report covered five areas where the deployment of smart technologies could make a “significant contribution” – electricity, irrigation, health, transport and broadband communications. The think tank claimed the following findings are conservative estimates:
- Spending $3.2 billion over seven years in smart grid technology would result in around four per cent lower electricity usage and boost GDP by between $7 billion and $16 billion over 10 years, while creating 17,600 jobs in an economy operating at less than full employment:
- Spending $200 million in a smart irrigation system in the Murray-Darling Basin would provide a 15 per cent saving in water use, add between $420 million and $670 million to GDP and 800 jobs;
- Spending $6.3 billion on an integrated national electronic records system for health would garner a GDP boost of between $6 billion and $13 billion over 10 years and add 12,000 jobs;
- Adopting a smart, integrated transport system that is supported by regulatory changes would result in a GDP boost of between $12 billion and $26 billion over 10 years while creating 30,000 jobs;
- Spending $12.6 billion on a fibre to the node (FTTN) national broadband network (NBN) would provide between $8 and $23 billion to GDP over 10 years along with 33,000 jobs by 2011. The report’s authors noted there is “insufficient data to accurately quantify the full economic benefits” of high-speed broadband. As such they decided not to use the Government’s proposed $43 billion Fibre to the Home (FTTH) plan as a basis for the report. However, the authors noted while an FTTH NBN would involve greater upfront capital costs, there was potential for greater benefits.