The use of wireless and satellite technology under the National Broadband Network (NBN) should not be regarded as a second-rate solution for regional and remote Australia, a Senate Estimates session has been told.
The Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) national board director, Suzanne Roche, said at a government inquiry that wireless and satellite use was an appropriate response to certain engineering challenges.
“I think it is unfortunate that wireless — the seven per cent that is wireless in particular - and satellite has been regarded by some people as a second-rate service, because it is not,” she said.
“It is an appropriate solution for an appropriate geographic issue we have got.
“Wireless is a shared access technology and it is built and engineered around numbers of users, so as long as it is engineered to support a known number of users it will deliver the high-quality service it is said to deliver.
“There should be no expectation at all that [regional and remote Australia] should suffer any degradation of service.”
AIIA chief executive, Ian Birks, said that despite suggestions that wireless speeds of 20 megabits per second (Mbps) would be needed to deliver telehealth services, the current minimum of 12Mbps would prove adequate.
"Because it is known as 12Mbps, industry will partner with providers to make sure that services can be utilised at that level ... but they may not be as fully functional as services [delivered on higher speeds],” he said.
“They will be engineered for that level, but that level will improve over time.
“It is our overarching view, and industry’s view, that what has been architected is as good a solution as can reasonably be architected with the technologies available at this time.”
Birks added that change management was the biggest issue holding back telehealth use in remote and regional Australia, instead of internet speeds or technology.
Cultural change in government
Commenting on the use of high-speed broadband to deliver government services, Roche said cultural change within governments was the greatest challenge to accessing more services online.
“To me, it’s attitude, it’s culture,” she said.
“Centrelink is a good example ... you have 70 years of history of an organisation asking people to come in, stand in a queue, fill in a form, go home, bring in documentation ... 70 years of [how an organisation] does things is difficult to change.
“Arguably it is one of the areas we are putting the least amount of effort in and it is where the most amount of our effort should be going.
"We know you cannot change behaviour overnight but it is fundamentally what does need to change.”
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