Monday, November 03, 2008

Noosa Clever Networks

Senator Stephen Conroy, the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy and the Arts, launched the Noosa Clever Networks project, 31 October 2008. This is based at the Cooroy Knowledge Precinct at the old Cooroy Butter Factory, on Queensland's Sunshine Coast. The project has $4.57M of Clever Networks funding for high-speed broadband. This is an excellent initiative, but the Senator and his staff need to learn to use the technology, not just talk about it.

According to the project web site, Noosa Clever Networks, involves a fibre optic connection to Brisbane via the rail line and WiMAX networks by Allegro Networks. Also Mach Technology will construct a Data Centre at the Old Butter Factory. According to the Minister, wireless and fibre broadband works have been completed and the data centre is ready.

Customer of the project include students at the Sippy Downs education precinct. It happens I visited the University of the Sunshine Coast, last December to talk about blended learning techniques . While there I dropped in on thin client startup company ThinLinX, which is located at a technology park adjacent to the campus. ThinLinX design low cost computers for business and education, ideally suited to the new broadband network.

Unfortunately, while the people of the sunshine coast have entered the broadband age, with the help of the federal government, the federal government itself still has not "got it". In his speech which launched the Noosa Clever Networks, the Broadband Minister said:
It is imperative that we also build the knowledge, skills and capabilities to ensure that all Australians have the opportunity to take advantage of these new technologies.

To that end, in four weeks time on 18 November, the Government will host the first Australian Council of Local Government meeting, at Parliament House in Canberra.

The one-day meeting with all Australian mayors and shire presidents will address issues of national and local significance.

Among these will be the immediate challenges facing major cities and growth corridors, including urban congestion, urban planning and design. ...
The irony of opening a regional broadband network designed to replace travel, by inviting people to fly to Canberra, seems to be lost on the minister's speech-writer. It is such last century thinking which is preventing many of the problems facing Australia from being solved, with urban congestion, planning and design.

Inviting people to fly thousands of kilometres to a centralised meeting and cause traffic congestion in Canberra is not the way to solve problems of urban congestion and promote regions. Senator Conroy and his staff need to learn to use the technology he is responsible for promoting.

I suggest that the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy could take an active part in the first meeting of the Australian Council of Local Government. by sponsoring an online component for the event. This would allow for experts and the general community to have input online over an extended period, rather than just being a passive audience for a short, remote event in Canberra.

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