Brave new world of communications

"Solicitors, banks, governments, publishers, retailers, business generally and Local Government are all readily taking up new technology, because if they don't, their competitors will soon put them out of business," said Howard Wallace, General Manager Hurstville City Council.

"Remember the Swiss said the quartz watch would never sell!" Hurstville has a very comprehensive Local Government web site, carrying extensive Council and community information at http://www.slnsw.gov.au/hurstville/.

Speaking at the recent Institute of Municipal Management (NSW Division) Annual Conference, Howard Wallace said that with Australia's Information Technology and Telecommunications Industry growing at incredible speed, the Federal Government expects it to be Australia's largest industry by the turn of the century.

It trebled between 1990 and 1995 and exports are expected to quadruple to $10 billion by the year 2000. Australia currently has 7,500 companies in this field, with 95% employing less than 20 people. Together they employ 160,000, are largely Australian owned and operated and have an annual turnover of $33.7 billion. This represents 5% of the Australian economy and is growing at 25% annually.

Turning to the World Wide Web (WWW), Howard Wallace pointed out that this is doubling in size every 60 days. There are 60,000 networks, four million hosts or servers and forty million users. The Internet currently carries one billion email messages a month.

Australia is the fifth largest Internet user in the world after US, UK, Germany and Canada. By next year, in the United States, more money will be spent advertising on the Internet than advertising on the radio.

"Australia is in a unique position as we will be the first country cabled coast to coast, putting us two to three years ahead of the Americans," he said. "Cable will pass four million Australian homes this year and an estimated seven million by 1999.

"This will provide high speed telephone services, pay TV, Internet access, narrowcast local community television and interactive capability."

He asked delegates to consider what will be the future of the fax with email able to transmit a 100 page document in seconds, similarly the fate of PCs as home computers become connected to or part of your TV. Howard Wallace believes that Councils need to see their IT spending as vital for maintaining a valuable asset - this being the future.

"Just as we plan ahead for expenditure to maintain all Council's other important assets, we must do a lot of hard work simply to maintain a working knowledge of this rapidly changing technology. It will mean spending money, planning for ongoing spending and being prepared to maybe throw the new product out after only a few years and spending again. A 'do nothing' or 'we will only do a bit' is no alternative to forward planning for IT."

For further information contact Howard Wallace, telephone (02) 9330 6021.