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Monday, 27 July 2009 08:28

Broadband vital for jobs, economic prosperity says Conroy

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The Minister for Broadband, Communications & Digital Economy, Stephen Conroy, has laid Australia’s future economic prosperity very much at the doorstep of the ICT industry and the development of the National Broadband Network (NBN).

Launching National ICT Careers Week in Melbourne this morning, Senator Conroy said broadband was vital to Australia’s economic prosperity, and he made the point that almost every aspect of economic activity and everyday life was now influenced by ICT and will become even more pervasive.

The Minister cited what he said was a growing body of evidence internationally that broadband is “the vital platform for future job creation and economic prosperity.”

He referred to a study by the European Commission that found that broadband had led to the creation of 105,000 new jobs in Europe in 2006 alone, and, here in Australia, IBM and Access Economics forecasts that the adoption of smart technologies in electricity, irrigation, heath, transport and high speed broadband were expected to add more than 70,000 jobs to the economy by 2014 alone.

IBM and Access Economics had also predicted broadband itself to generate 33,000 jobs by 2011, Conroy said.

The Minister told the audience at the National ICT Careers Week launch that the ICT industry was the “engine room in which to build our digital skills and grow our digital capabilities to fill these new positions.”

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“This includes the broad range of industry sectors that will adopt smart technology and develop sustainable online content models,” the Minister said, and he predicted that the rapid technological developments and a continuous stream of new applications mean that ICT is likely to become even more pervasive.

Touting the NBN as the Rudd government’s “key enabler in this space (ICT),” the Minister said the ICT sector accounted for approximately 4.6 per cent of GDP, and contributed to productivity growth across the economy, and a trend analysis based on ABS Labour Force data showed that in May 2009 nearly 400,000 Australians were employed in ICT occupations.

“In the 10 years previous, employment for ICT support technicians and ICT managers in Australia grew respectively by 28 and 25 per cent,” the Minister said, adding that “these figures are not lost on the Rudd Government,” and that the government understood that research and development — particularly in ICT — drives skills development and attracts investment.

“That is why the Government has allocated more than $32 million over two years to provide students and teachers with online curriculum tools and resources as part of the digital education revolution. That is why we have allocated $1 billion over four years to the education sector to ensure that students receive ICT training and are prepared to live and work in the digital world. That is also why we have allocated $185.5 million in a four-year funding extension to ensure the long-term viability of NICTA — our world-class ICT research facility and PhD program.”

Senator Conroy reminded his audience that the NBN would support up to 25,000 local jobs every year, on average, over the eight year rollout, and would peak at 37,000.

“These are the people who will dig the ditches, run the fibres, plan and engineer the network, connect homes and offices, create and supply network hardware and other associated jobs.

The Minister said the national ICT careers week launch by the ACS and the AIIA was a great industry program to foster the development of skills and new employment in the ICT sector, and he said the digital economy promised a wide range of challenging, interesting and critically-important opportunities for employment.

“It highlights the efforts industry is making to ensure that it is best placed to capitalise on the enabling investments of the Government, including in the National Broadband Network.”

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