Consultancy Pty Ltd, Canberra
of Computer Science,
Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd, 1999
This Statement was prepared on and for Online Australia Day, minor revision of
29 November 1999
This document is at http://www.anu.edu.au/people/Roger.Clarke/II/OLADay99.html
Over five years ago, I laid out
the Government needs to do to lead, stimulate, co-ordinate and regulate the
country's information infrastructure.
Here's the 'state of the e-nation', as I see it on 27 November 1999:
- the long-promised enabling legislation relating to evidence and
Electronic Transactions Bill 1999) has finally been passed, on 25 November
1999 [the initial version of this document incorrectly assumed that it was
still before Parliament]. It will initially apply in only very few
circumstances, and there have to be doubts that it will be sufficient to
establish business confidence - see
- the long-awaited Privacy Protection (Private Sector) Bill
is still just that - long-awaited. Public confidence in electronic commerce
will continue to be lacking unless the Parliament provides substantial and real
protections (and there are signs that the Government's Bill will fail that
test), and until it has been introduced, debated, passed, assented to, and come
into force. Given normal legislative cycles, think in tems of 2002-2004;
- the Government Public Key Authority
had an opportunity to make sure that the public key infrastructure (PKI)
necessary privacy-protection features. It has spurned that opportunity.
As a result, there will be wholesale rejection of the technology by citizens
and small businesspeople, losses on investments, and an ongoing impediment to
public confidence in electronic commerce and electronic services delivery. It
appears unlikely that the National Electronic Authentication Council (NEAC)
will solve the problem either;
- our international connectivity is still inadequate.
Between ourselves and our neighbours and primary trade partners in East Asia,
the bandwidth is woeful, and the paths are tortuous;
- the prices charged for connections and traffic are
extraordinarily high in comparison with the only countries that matter - our
competitors, particularly the U.S.A. and Canada. The difference is around a
factor of 3, i.e. 300%;
- ISDN would once have been considered broadband, but now offers capacity
only marginally better than mainstream modems. Yet ISDN is
still priced ridiculously high, and hence is hardly used;
- cable passes the houses of about 2 million, mostly affluent people. Cable
TV has been regarded with apathy by most of them, and the carriers are losing
money; yet no-one in the derisorily uncompetitive marketplace
has seen fit to price Internet access via cable at an
- many regional and rural areas suffer appallingly poor
bandwidths and hence Internet services to and from those areas are seriously
inadequate. A Bandwidth Enquiry is currently being conducted, which presented
an opportunity to address the problem. Instead, the Enquiry is doing its level
best to sustain the pretence that the problem doesn't exist;
- the few carriers have serious conflicts of interest,
because they are also providing all levels of value-added service (and hence
are suppliers to their competitors);
- the regulatory environment is seriously inhospitable. The
Services Amendment (Online Services) Act 1999 (BSA) was passed on 30 June
1999. The censorship regime that the BSA establishes is based
on utter technical ignorance, and is intrusive, ineffective, costly and at this
stage completely confusing. See
- the most recent insult to the Australian public was the passage of the
Security Intelligence Organisation Legislation Amendment Act 1999. Despite
the Cold War being well and truly over, this gives yet more powers to
ASIO, enabling them to hack into computers and place tracking devices
on cars and humans. It was passed the day before Online Australia Day 1999 ...
- such positive things as the Government is doing are moving forward at
- there are many vital areas in which it has failed to act, and continues to
fail to act;
- whereas, in the regulatory arena, it is making every available mistake as
quickly as possible.
1998 statement on Online Australia Day, I said that "For the Information
Society to underpin the Information Economy ..., it is essential that access be
ubiquitous. Access to the information infrastructure must not be thought of as
a paid service, or as an optional extra; rather it must become available to
everyone, everywhere, just as readily as the air that they breathe, and the
shopping centres, pubs, clubs and coffee-shops that they congregate in"; and I
was upbeat about our prospects of achieving accessibility, and e-competing with
the best in the world.
A year later, I'm downcast, because the Commonwealth Government is making a
complete botch of its responsibilities.
My 1994 monograph was called
Infrastructure for The Networked Nation'.
My site provides materials relating to many relevant matters, including
policy aspects of the information infrastructure.
contents-page for this segment.
an email to Roger
Created: 27 November 1999
Last Amended: 29 November 1999
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