The economic and social Impacts of enhanced NBN connectivity

In recent years, Australia has witnessed a profound transformation in its digital landscape, propelled by the accelerated rollout of the National Broadband Network (NBN). New economic research conducted by Accenture commissioned by NBN Co sheds light on the substantial benefits of a faster and more robust NBN network, with implications spanning economic growth, workforce demographics, personal wellbeing, and social inclusion.

Accenture’s analysis reveals that the enhanced NBN network is poised to significantly bolster Australia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) over the period from 2023 to 2030. The estimated $400 billion increase in GDP is attributed to the observed correlation between improved broadband speeds and key economic indicators such as productivity, employment, and new business creation. Notably, for every one megabit per second (Mbps) increase in average broadband speed, Australia’s productivity-driven GDP experienced a 0.04 percent uptick. This underscores the pivotal role of enhanced connectivity in driving economic advancement.

The economic benefits of the NBN are particularly pronounced in regional and remote areas, where the impact of faster broadband speeds is up to 16 times greater compared to major cities. This phenomenon can be attributed to the expansion of e-commerce opportunities and improved access to work and education facilitated by enhanced connectivity. As a result, these regions are experiencing a significant uplift in job creation and entrepreneurial activity. For instance, Accenture estimates that higher average broadband speeds enabled by the NBN supported the creation of 169,000 jobs throughout Australia in the ten-year period from 2012 to 2022, equivalent to 1% of Australia’s labour force. Over the forecast period from 2023 to 2030, Accenture estimates that higher average broadband speeds will support the creation of 113,000 additional jobs, bringing the total number of NBN-supported employment opportunities to around 282,000 jobs.

NBN Co’s ongoing network upgrade program plays a pivotal role in extending the benefits of enhanced connectivity across the country. Initiatives such as the introduction of new fixed wireless high-speed tiers, with potential peak speeds reaching up to 400/40 Mbps, and uncapped internet data use for regional and remote areas, are instrumental in narrowing the digital divide and promoting equitable access to broadband services. These upgrades are projected to more than double average download speeds across the NBN network by 2030, rising to more than 130 Mbps.

Beyond its economic implications, the enhanced NBN network has ushered in a myriad of personal benefits for Australians. Approximately one in five NBN customers have reported an increase in income or started a new business as a result of improved connectivity. Moreover, the network has facilitated better work-life balance and increased productivity, leading to significant savings in travel costs and other expenses. For example, Accenture found that the average NBN customer is saving $2,580 annually by using the NBN network to manage work and personal administration online.

The positive impacts of the NBN extend beyond economic gains to encompass personal wellbeing and social inclusion. Access to telehealth services, online education, and social connections has been greatly facilitated by the network, particularly benefiting low-income households and First Nations communities. Furthermore, the NBN’s role as a great equaliser and enabler is evident in its ability to connect people, improve economic opportunities, and enhance overall quality of life. In fact, three in four NBN customers believe that having a fast, reliable, and secure NBN connection at home helps them to maintain and improve their overall satisfaction with life.

Stephen Rue, CEO of NBN Co, emphasises the transformative potential of the NBN in bridging the digital divide and promoting social and economic participation. He underscores the importance of ongoing improvements in speed, capacity, and reliability to ensure equitable access to essential online services and foster social connectivity and inclusion across the nation.

The enhanced NBN network stands as a catalyst for positive change, driving economic growth, reshaping workforce demographics, and enhancing personal wellbeing and social inclusion. As Australia continues to harness the power of digital connectivity, the NBN remains a cornerstone of the nation’s journey towards a more prosperous and inclusive future.

Paul Budde

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