Increasingly, developments that are happening globally are affecting Australia. Putting our heads in the sand and pretending that events like the financial crisis in Europe, the political situation in the USA, the developments in China and India, or climate change are all taking place outside Australia is counter-productive.
Fortunately, the majority of Australians are sufficiently well informed to look beyond this and even if we don't fully understand all the implications there is a clear understanding that we cannot run away from both the national and the international challenges that we, as a society, are facing.
Having said this, we believe that it is up to us to find a way around these global challenges at a local level – to try to develop our own strategies and work out our own way forward.
Looking back at the social and economic challenges that the human race has faced in the past it seems that change generally creates opportunity. Previous upheavals have generated much disruption, pain and suffering but every single time, from the prehistoric era on, civilisation has made progress – becoming more prosperous, more knowledgeable, and more able to manage the increasingly complex environments that we live in.
These times will be no different. Within the current context Australia is well positioned to participate positively in helping the world to become a better place – and in some instances we have been able to show leadership, especially in areas where we are relatively less affected by the turmoil.
As a middle economy it is also easier for us to show leadership, since we are not a political or economic threat to others. At the same time, over the last few decades Australia has shown more maturity in its international position and its role in the world. Being isolated geographically we have historically tended to be rather parochial in our international activities; but now, in an increasingly connected digital world, this is changing and we feel more comfortable and confident in taking up a position on many of the issues the world is facing.
Some of the bold initiatives that Australia has taken over the last few years are in general supported by its people. Look at the signing of the Kyoto Protocol, our leadership at the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference in 2009, the national broadband network and the carbon tax. We might squabble over the details, but citizens intuitively see all of these issues as important, visionary and of strategic importance to the country.
Australia and the UN Broadband Commissions
Today Australia's international leadership is evident in an area in which it has previously rarely featured – ICT.
While we have had, and still have, very innovative individual companies operating in this space government leadership has hardly ever played a part.
The vision of the NBN (linked to trans-sector policies in which the NBN is seen as utilities-based infrastructure that allows for affordable and innovative use of it for e-health, e-education, e-commerce, smart grids, digital media and so on) first attracted the interest of the Obama Administration and subsequently of the UN (the ITU and UNESCO). This led to the formation of the UN Broadband Commission for Digital Development.
The 58 commissioners involved in this international body are among the world's top leaders in business, ICT, government and international organisations. They all accept the trans-sector concept that was first envisaged and implemented in Australia. The commission launched its targets to all the UN member companies, highlighting the perspective of access to high-speed broadband as a human right.
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