One thing that everyone's talking about right now in
Australia is the NBN. It's probably the most dramatic change in
telecommunications that has occurred in this country for many, many
years but one of the most interesting things about it is the
lessons that can be learnt from the experiences here and from all
of the changes and regulation here for some other countries in the
One example of this is the reforms around universal service in
telecommunications that have occurred as part of the NBN.
A universal service is basically about ensuring that everyone in
the country has reasonable access to telecommunications and
that's a very important social objective. But what's really
interesting is how that issue is becoming so significant now in
some of our major trading partners and neighbours in Asia. And I
think two huge countries where there are some surprising
similarities to Australia are China and Indonesia. What are the
similarities? Well both of them are actually very large countries.
They're countries in which the population is very
You take China - there are huge concentrations of populations on
the east coast in cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou but there
are very large numbers of people in the centre of the country.
Indonesia, similarly, you've got Jakarta which is a major
metropolis but you've got lots of far-flung islands which are
very difficult to reach certainly with fixed telecommunication
That's quite like Australia in Australia where have you got
the population with the exception of Perth it's all on the east
coast, very little in the centre. So I think it follows from that
that a lot of the lessons we're learning about how to
efficiently provide a universal service in Australia in the context
of rollout of a national broadband network are equally applicable -
perhaps with some changes - to China and to Indonesia and what that
does is it provides I think a very significant opportunity for us
in Australia for advisors, for governments to play a significant
role in assisting those countries to enhance the universal
Why is that important? I mean well that in a part that goes to
all of the reasons why the NBN is so important here and why the
reforms around the NBN are so important here. It's not just
technology, it's not just the telephone, it's not even just
a computer. It's a way of improving the way of life of people
who are serviced by those networks and it's a very significant
way of enhancing productivity.
But one of the most important things in all of those examples is
how do you fund it? How do you actually fund the provision - which
is often very expensive - of services to these remote areas, to
these villages, to these towns which could in fact generate a lot
of income and there are various ways it can be done. It can be done
via direct government subsidy or it can be done via some sort of a
levy on other participants in the industry.
The consideration of those sorts of issues and particularly the
move towards doing it in a more free market way in a contractual
model is one of the debates that's occurring right now in
Australia. But I think the important thing to recognise is that so
much of what is being done here could have real relevance and real
benefit for those countries and for other countries in Asia.
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