ICT industry greets NBN decision with open arms

Representative bodies say the Federal Government's NBN decision will open up ample job opportunities in the ICT sector

ICT industry representative bodies have warmly welcomed the Federal Government’s announcement it will build the national broadband network (NBN) itself.

After a drawn out bidding process, the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, unveiled an ambitious plan to establish a new company, the National Broadband Network Corporation, to deliver a fibre-to-the-premise (FTTP) network across Australia. The project will be on a strictly wholesale-only basis.

The new company will team up with private investors to deliver the $43 billion network in the next 7-8 years.

Competitive carriers coalition (CCC) executive director, David Forman, said the decision was a good outcome for the industry.

“It is what we have been wanting for years in terms of regulatory changes around the structure of the industry,” he said. “This can take us further than if we had relied on commercial options on the table.”

Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) CEO, Ian Birks, said the decision was a surprise, but a positive result.

“The Government has provided an innovative solution to the NBN,” he said.

The Rudd Government has revealed plans for 37,000 new jobs at the outset, and an average of 25,000 jobs per year during the course of the project. Birks lauded the job opportunities available to the ICT community.

“This will provide a much needed stimulus to the ICT industry in this economic climate,” he said. “It will give a good boost to certain sectors such as software and development.”

Although the move may assuage the ICT employment downturn, a skills shortage that has plagued the industry lingers.

“The Government may have to look at reviewing their immigration policies to fill in the new openings,” Birks said. “But a high volume of these skilled workers are already working in different corporations.

“I can see a big employment shift to the NBN company.”

ACS Chairman, Kumar Parakala, also saw the need to employ on a local and international scale.

“I think the NBN project will have a number of well-known investors and they will overcome this shortage either by hiring locally or from overseas,” he said. “When it is something of this nature, there will always be need for skills from countries that have done it very well.”

While the long-awaited announcement may have closed a chapter in the NBN’s history, Birks stressed that it was not the end.

“This marks the beginning, not the end of Australia becoming a true digital economy,” he said. “As the network is set up, value-added services for economic growth such as eHealth, eCommerce and education reform will be put into the spotlight.”

Parakala also emphasised this kind of critical infrastructure was long overdue and implored the Government to hasten the project.

“Embark on the execution sooner than later,” he said. “There needs to be tangible outcomes that can be seen that tax-payers can get from their investment.”

Original contenders for the NBN contract included Optus, Acacia, Axia NetMedia, TransACT, and the Tasmanian government.

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