WCIT 2002: Australia to push broadband plans

Australian Prime Minister John Howard officially opened the World Congress on Information Technology (WCIT 2002) today, and announced an ICT scoping study and the establishment of a Broadband Advisory Group.

The study, which is dubbed an ICT Framework for the Future, will examine the development of Australian industry over the next 10 years with an eye to tapping into international opportunities.

The mapping exercise will involve consultation with industry and will be used as a basis for future Government policy.

Speaking at a media conference after the announcement IT Minister Senator Richard Alston rejected criticism that the Broadband Advisory Group was 'too little, too late', claiming it was not solely the Government's responsibility to fund the rollout of broadband in Australia and promote takeup.

Alston said rollouts funded by governments overseas proved to be a 'costly white elephant' with poor takeup rates, adding that the advisory group will assist in policy development and the strategic use of broadband services.

He said it was the next key communications technology that will act as a catalyst for economic growth in Australia over the next decade but was unwilling to disclose who members of the group will be.

The government also used the Congress to announce that its 1997 mandate to move all government services online by the end of 2001 had reached completion.

There are more than 1,600 online services now available across the federal government and the next step is the launch of australia.gov.au tomorrow [Thurs 28] which will be a single entry point for all services comprising 18 portals.

In his opening speech the Prime Minister described Australians as 'instant devourers' of new technology with 72 per cent of the population over 16 years of age having access to the Internet.

Howard said in the new economy there are no 'old industries' only those that are efficient or non-efficient depending on their successful adaptation of new technology.

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