Leading Australian social commentator, Bernard Salt.
Leading Australian social commentator, Bernard Salt. Contributed

Renowned social commentator talks about our NBN future

DIGITAL connectivity in Coffs Harbour has arguably never been greater. Since the National Broadband Network was rolled-out in Coffs Harbour three years ago, tens of thousands of homes and businesses across the region have enjoyed the NBN’s fast and reliable speeds. The digital future is looking bright on the Coffs Coast offering a variety of opportunities to advance the region culturally, socially and economically. To find out more about these opportunities, the Advocate spoke with leading Australian commentator, Bernard Salt. Mr Salt has researched and prepared numerous reports for the NBN in the last two years honing in on how Australian society and business will evolve in the 2020s in a post-NBN rollout world.

What did your research yield about Australians adapting to the NBN?

The observation I had is that Australians have used technology for more than 100 years to secure lifestyle — trams, trains, auto-mobiles, sea change and tree change is all about using technology to leverage a better quality of life or to leverage a better lifestyle.

How will the NBN change the lifestyles of Australians to leverage a better lifestyle?

With super-connectivity and NBN, the nexus between where you live and where you work is finally broken and what I’m saying is we’ll start to see an e-change movement so you take your city job from city and you might turn up to Bellingen or Coffs Harbour and telecommute. Or you might decide you’re sick of the rat race, be the commute or the cost of living in a major capital city, and you want to find a different quality of life in a place like Coffs Harbour for example and start up your own business perhaps. So I think we’ll start to see a shift towards lifestyle areas as a consequence of the NBN.

Small businesses are said to benefit as a result of the NBN roll-out, can you explain why this is?

The other argument is that super-connectivity through the NBN actually lifts the productivity of small to medium enterprises. So that might mean tradies, plumber, electricians, carpenters are able to build on-site through their phones. It might mean that they are able to store material, plans, photographs of jobs of variations on jobs on the cloud, which was not possible previously because we didn’t have the capacity to do that. That reduces disputes and improves efficiency, productivity.

What about benefits for regional business?

Other businesses, they might be Coffs Harbour based or Bellingen selling a product - why would you limit yourself to the catchment area of Coffs Harbour or Bellingen when in fact you can open an online business and sell your product globally. This opens up some interesting prospects in that the tyranny of distance that has really shaped Australia and that has limited regional Australia has broken down. We are a small nation spread across a vast continent and the problem has always been that small population bases far from capital cities have provided limits to economic activity and wealth generation. With super-connectivity, you don’t need to be in a capital city. If you’re selling a product to someone in America, they have no idea whether Coffs Harbour is in Sydney or halfway between Brisbane and Sydney.

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