From paper based literature and libraries to rich video content and the cloud, the way Australians produce and consume content is changing at a dramatic pace.Think back to how we used to do most of our day to day activities. From our banking, carrying out business meetings, creating financial records and operating a business on an international scale. All these activities would have required hours of phone calls at best, and in most cases lots of travel - whether it be to the bank or overseas - to plan your business deals and activities for the year ahead.
It’s ironic that our latest data centre site in Sydney was originally designed and used as a government paper store. In essence it will still store huge amounts of data, but internally the building has changed and everything is now stored in racks of servers, not piles of paper in archive boxes. The evolution of ‘the cloud’ has enabled us to exchange and store data like never before, but the incoming NBN will up-the-ante, enabling Australian society to exchange and utilise data in sizes and speeds that have not been realised before now.
A glance at the Australia Bureau of Statistics and you will see that in 2009 only 41.5 per cent of businesses had a web presence. The introduction of the NBN into Australia will change all that, ensuring that as a nation, we are ahead of the curve in terms of online capability compared to most other countries in the world, which will create huge opportunities for our digital economy.
New technologies have made life much easier and in many respects a lot of fun. I can do my personal banking in 10 minutes online after dinner with my family, and many of my business meetings now take place over conference calls or videoconferencing facilities.
I still travel overseas occasionally as nothing beats a face-to-face meeting but it’s not as necessary as it once would have been. Satellite TV, the internet and Smart phones mean we can access all sorts of information, all of the time from many locations and devices – creating ‘the internet of things’. According to research from Kleiner Perkins, 70 per cent of all internet users are expected to have five or more devices, with 15 billion devices added over the next three to five years.
As great as all these changes have been and the way in which it has eased time constraints in our lives, increasing amounts of information and the changing nature of business means that we have found ourselves in a bottleneck. Our broadband is not up to the task of handling the amount of information we now use and need on a daily basis. While all the information can be housed in the cloud the NBN will enable quicker and easier access to this information at the click of a button, something we desperately need. A recent report from Cisco estimated that Australia will devour 708 petabytes of data monthly in 2016, more than seven times as much than today.
Technology as an enabler
More and more companies are encouraging and aiding remote working as an option for employees. The public sector was one of the first to experience massive financial savings by cutting spending on travel and encouraging teleconferencing and the commercial sector is quickly following suit. However, for many workers – especially those outside metro areas - the lag in time it takes to access information stored on your work server from your home office is frustrating and impedes on their ability to utilise all the tools available while working from home.
The NBN will enable employees Australia-wide to utilise cloud based content and services in innovative ways that will directly improve business efficiency - ultimately benefiting the bottom line.
As our communication efficiencies improve we’ll see a greater exchange of video and rich media content. Instead of emailing each other we could be sending quick video memos and demonstrations. If we need to store our current emails for legal purposes then chances are we’ll need to store rich media content communications as well.
There are obvious benefits of the NBN to the home user, we will be able to download movies and other entertainment in seconds rather than the half hour or longer it currently takes me. Moving up in scale, remote and rural Australia will have the same access to the internet that those living in capital cities now have. It will be easy for members of these communities to run their own online businesses or work remotely helping them to create the type of lifestyles they want.
Healthcare will also see a massive evolution as the NBN rolls out. Currently most smaller and rural hospitals rarely have specialists on hand. Imagine a surgeon in a rural hospital who has a heart attack patient on their operating table and on screen in the theatre is a leading heart specialist from across the world assisting with the operation. It would provide improvements and benefits to both patients and medical practitioners.
If we take this a step further and the whole of the operation were to be captured, it could be stored in the cloud and accessed by hospitals and medical professionals around the world, downloaded and streamed in seconds for real life scenarios and educational purposes.
The rollout of the NBN will mean that businesses have access to a wider pool of employees right across Australia. Many of the major multinationals may see this as an opportunity to setup satellite offices to utilise the emerging markets and regions of rural and regional Australia. Over time, we may even see some of the bigger firms relocating outside the metro areas too, itself carrying a number of benefits none less than reduced overhead costs, as well as access to space and resources.
History has shown that the faster our internet becomes the more content we consume. For businesses and service providers that push out a lot of content, not to mention news bureaus, this will mean that they will be able to stream in higher quality. Many companies are going to have to reconsider their storage needs and whether they have the ability to store all this information themselves or if it’s time to look at alternatives. Although the NBN is currently not slated to be complete until 2018 companies should be considering this aspect of their operations now in an effort to future-proof their operations – after all 90 per cent of the world’s data has been created in the last two years.
The news media will really be the first to reap the benefits of the NBN and there is an opportunity for big business to follow suit and look at how the NBN, paired with the capabilities that the cloud offers can affect and improve their businesses on both a local and big picture basis. We need to start planning now if we intend to take the opportunities presented to us as rural Australia becomes better connected. We also need to look at the types of rich media content that can be created to give a competitive advantage.
The NBN will increase capabilities of the internet for all Australians; as individuals, businesses, international companies and government agencies. As our access becomes easier our content creating and consumption will rapidly and vastly increase. In short the NBN will speed up the capabilities of ‘the cloud’ increasing productivity and the ability to reach your market. For the cloud to be truly effective it needs a faster internet. Enter the NBN.
Tony Simonsen is the managing director for Equinix Australia and responsible for the overall performance of the company’s IBX centres in Australia.