Monday, January 24th, 2011

Critical Infrastructure

In the 18th century canals were one of the essential means of communications. In the 19th Century trains displaced the canals and in the 20th Century the car displaced trains. In the 21st century the internet is in the process of displacing the car.

For this process to work requires high speed internet connections to as big a portion of the population as possible and it needs to be absolutely reliable. In Australia this absolutely critical infrastructure to move the country properly into the 21st century is called the National Broadband Network (or NBN).

Unfortunately construction of the NBN is at a very early stage of development. Because it wasn’t already in place the Queensland floods ended up far worse in the damage they caused and in loss of life than almost certainly would have been the case had the NBN been there beforehand. One example which I saw referenced today relates to dozens of doctors in the affected area who due to the NBN not being in place have lost all of their patient records – that’s the paper copies and computer copies and the offsite backups all gone. Had the NBN been in place they could have had backups of this essential information now lost backed up to “the cloud” where it would have been safe. So who knows how many people will now have major medical issues due to the loss of these records which the NBN could have prevented.

The most obvious way in which the NBN would have helped had it been in place before the floods would have been in providing more warning to those affected. Perhaps a minute or two extra notice would have saved the lives of some of those who died and more accurate real time information as to what was happening with flood waters would have enabled some people to save more of their property.

Communications is the most critical thing when it comes to disasters such as this. Of course the opposition in parliament have made a complete mockery of the whole thing by suggesting that the NBN be abandoned to pay for repairing the flood damage. The only possible suggestion that they could have made that would have been as stupid would have been if they suggested that Australia stop importing food to pay for the reconstruction (considering how much of Australia’s food supply was destroyed by the floods).

It is absolutely essential that the NBN be fully implemented before the next such disaster.

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