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Charles Todd Medal acceptance speech

 

This year I have been awarded with the prestigious Charles Todd Medal for Excellence in Communications. The presentation was done by Charles’ great-grandson Barry in the presence of representatives of the telecommunications industry at a luncheon organised by Telsoc.

 

The Charles Todd Medal

The award was established by ATUG (the Australian Telecommunications Users Group) in 1992.

The tradition of awarding the Charles Todd Medal annually “for outstanding contributions to telecommunications” has been continued by TelSoc since its inception in 2013.

The Charles Todd Medal is named in honour of Sir Charles Todd, the leader of the team which connected Darwin to Adelaide by telegraph in 1872 and thus Australia to Batavia (Jakarta) and London and the rest of the world. Arguably, the global telegraph network was the original digital ‘world wide web’.

 

Thank you, Barry. It such an honour to receive this medal, and it is even more special to receive it from you in the presence of you and your wife Ola and Charles biographer Professor Denis Crule and his wife Helen.  Also, of course, a big thank you to the Telsoc committee.

A decade or so ago I went, with my mum, on the Charles Todd pilgrimage and drove from Darwin to Alice Springs, visiting all of the historical telegraph sites along the route. I was very pleased to see that they were so well-maintained, with plenty of information about his pioneering work. It gave me a good feeling to know that the story of this important nation-building project will be there for many future generations to see.

My involvement in the telecoms world started with videotex, the predecessor of the internet. My background is in marketing and in my business I concentrated on the economic and social benefits of telecoms. This has been a continuous thread through most of my telecoms work. While not ignoring some of the darker clouds that are produced by the internet, facilitated by telecoms, it is my belief that the overarching benefits are much greater.

As co-initiator of the United Nations Broadband Commission for Digital Development I had lots of first-hand experience of the total transformation that is still taking place in the developing countries thanks to telecoms – helping them to use telecoms to transform their economies, social structures, improving the lifestyles of individual people, etc. In this work we are promoting telecoms as a key tool to create smart communities, smart cities, smart energy, innovative new jobs, e-health, tele-education and so on.

I am also proud of my involvement in the strategic development of the original FttH policy here at home, and currently in helping to shape the national smart city policy. So you see I am bi-partisan.

And, yes, as you will continue to see in my blogs, interviews and analyses, I am sometimes frustrated by the fact that we fail to concentrate on those long-term economic and social benefits and instead focus on the short-term issues. I will most certainly continue to give attention to those larger benefits.

It has been an honour to represent Australian telecommunications in the UN, the Global Smart Grid Federation and the Global Communities and Cities Coalition. And of course I should mention the ICT links between Australia and my country of birth, the Netherlands. I am currently focussing on smart cities, smart airports and other smart campuses. This is all to do with collaboration – collaboration between all three levels of government, between cities, the industry and the R&D community, as well as international city collaboration. In this ecosystem we now have the 8 leading Australian smart cities (as part of 25 cities internationally), a 30 member smart city industry group, and 12 universities. Already three collaboration projects between Australian and Dutch cities are underway. Next month I am off to Barcelona, where the largest smart city event in the world takes place, and where the 8 Australian cities will be represented. That is if they don’t start a revolution in the meantime.

I hope that you don’t mind that I have used this opportunity to give smart cities a plug. In this turbulent world democracy is still healthy and flourishing at the grassroots level, where there is a genuine interest in the national interest – or should we call it city-interest – and where people are able to rise above party politics. It is in our cities where the effects of climate change is felt, where migrants and refugees arrive, where there are the traffic jams, where people struggle with housing and energy affordability – but also where our innovators and start-ups are, where new jobs are created, and where smart energy is making enormous progress. It is very exhilarating to work with some of the leading national and international smart cities as it gives us a glimpse of where the future is heading.

The greatest gift of telecommunications, in my opinion, is that it enables people to take greater control of their lives, of their environment, and of the future for their children and grandchildren.

Once again, I am enormously honoured to receive this recognition. A big thank you to Telsoc and to all of you. I am also very pleased that my dear wife Louise is here, because without her running the office I would not have been able to take part in all of those interesting activities I have just mentioned. Also a big thanks you to the BuddeComm team for their support over all those years.

Thank you.

Paul Budde