Australia needs a debate on why it lags in online and network thinking

By, the online-only business magazine which launched in February and is already doing very well, has an article titled Left behind Down Under (second story on the page) based on our release from last week and an interview with me. Some of the quotes from the piece:

Ross Dawson, founding chairman of Future Exploration Network, says the average bandwidth of Australian broadband is around a third that of the UK and a fifth that of the US.

“When you go to access video and audio it is so slow and clunky many people give up, so people spend less time on sites,” he says. The average time on an internet site in Australia is just under a minute.

Cultural issues also affecting Australians’ online usage. “We are less inclined to put forward an opinion in a social environment,” he says. “This means that we are slower in participating on blogs, forums and social networking sites.”

Dawson says the takeup of Web 2.0 by businesses is also trailing other countries, which is affecting productivity and marketing. “In the US in companies like Disney and McDonald’s use less email and do far more collaboration on projects, which contributes to better outcomes.”

Australians are also slower to use blogging platforms and other Web 2.0 for marketing.

“Organisations need to be far more innovative in how they use technologies internally and externally because as we shift to the global network economy we must be connected to other ideas and knowledge or we will be disadvantaged as a nation.”

As I said at the press briefing last week, I believe that Australia as a society needs to engage in a debate about why we are so behind in some areas of the use of technology. Overall Australians are early adopters of technology, but we are around two years behind the US and some other leading countries in tools such as social networks. While we are progressing, it’s hard to say we are catching up, having personally closely observed the uptake of social media in the US and Australia since before 2000. Poor Internet bandwidth and high data costs are certainly barriers, as are cultural issues. Yet Australians need to recognize that these are critical issues in a geographically isolated country which is set in an intensely networked global economy. How well we connect is fundamental to our future.