Just been reading Kenneth Davidson “Other projects will pay for Rudd’s hare-brained scheme” in The Age today. I think he is just plain wrong in his assertion that “the high-speed broadband network should be built incrementally”. Using his arguments the gas and electricity companies wouldn’t install pipes and wires to my house until I discovered I needed to have a shower or turn on a light.
He misses the point entirely. Innovation over the centuries has been driven by bands of individuals coming across a service or infrastructure and creating new and exciting purposes and products.
Staying in the technology sector for a moment, both the Apple iPhone Apps Store and Facebook Applications systems were infrastructure ideas created by the companies without a complete vision of what would result. But they were visionary enough to comprehend that by constructing a framework that enabled developers across a broad range of competencies and resource availability to create new software, they could stimulate a world of innovation. And that’s exactly what has happened. Both companies now have available tens of thousands of services and applications produced by third parties. Some of the programs are terrible. Others are striking in their innovation. All that was required was a faith in the inventiveness of their customers.
We started our internet company in our lounge room in 2000, back before broadband was even available to us. We sticky taped solutions together at almost no cost using what was available. Six years later we sold the company for several million dollars.
Our innovation today still emanates from our loungeroom – we have web servers in the family room cupboard. We constantly play with the available technologies to investigate how they can be alternatively utilised or reorganised to produce new products and services. Under Davidson’s regime we would not have access to the new infrastructure – not being a big company, or hospital or university.
I notice Davidson has left schools off his list of those privileged organizations who should receive preferential treatment. My eleven year old daughter, who runs online forums, writes on her blog and is constantly searching for new ways to use her internet connection and computer will be very disappointed. He’s ignoring one of the most innovative groups in our country – the kids who, by the time the NBN is finished in eight or nine years, will be moving into the workforce, starting businesses, and creating community and economic value.
History also shows us that major projects, particularly technology based, rolled out incrementally are rarely completed. Progress slows, attention and resource is diverted, specifications and impetus and politics divert from the path.
Kevin Rudd’s vision on this is bold to be sure. Yes there are massive challenges. But the technology is proven. And put that technology in the hands of individuals and not restrict it to the privileged few, and the aggregate can only benefit Australia and the rest of the world.