Google Australia managing director, Nick Leeder, has a message for the nation: the Internet is already worth big bucks to the economy - $50 billion to be precise. And that's before the government even started digging trenches to house the NBN.
Leeder was speaking at VIP lunch in Melbourne on the findings of a Google-sponsored Deloitte Access Economics report into the state of Australia’s Internet landscape.
Titled The Connected Continent: How the Internet is Transforming Australia’s Economy, the report looks at how the Internet is shaping Australia’s growth as a nation.
“There are a number of important policy debates running in the country around access, the NBN, and productivity,” Leeder said.
“There’s been a lot of noise around some of the negatives, but I think what we wanted to do was add some data and facts to the debate to help us understand the size of the Internet is and the importance of the Internet to our economy in Australia.”
Looking beyond Internet companies such Google and Facebook, Leeder saw this as an opportunity to see how businesses are grappling with the Internet and starting to use it in the way they do business.
“I think what we’ve found is when you look at it as a pure GDP lens and see how much we spend on Internet related stuff you get to a number of $50 billion, which is 3.6 per cent of Australia’s GDP,” Leeder said.
“So already, prior to the NBN, the Internet is playing an incredible role in the economy of this country.”
Leeder was quick to point out that while in some other sectors like iron-ore, which are very easy to measure, the benefits are very distributed through big and small businesses, as well as households.
“They’re all capturing benefits, which are harder to measure, but when you add it all up, you suddenly realise it’s a very important industry for Australia and will continue to be so if we continue to foster it and help it to grow.”
When looking at technologies that will continue to push growth, Leeder identified video as being important for moving forward as a platform for people to interact with each other.
With Google+ having person-to-person video built into it and enabling users to make free calls to other people on the social network, Leeder expects that regular phone calls are going to look dull in comparison once people get a hang of the technology.
“If you think about every person on the planet starting to use HD person-to-person video for not only talking to their family but doing business, the broadband consumption is going to be enormous,” Leeder said.
With this increase in data consumption comes opportunities for companies such as Google to make use of the NBN as people move away from a predominantly text based world into one that is image, video and voice based.
“You think about lots more video, people wanting to interact with the search based on voice,” Leeder explained.
“We’re in the process of rolling out voice search for mobile, because rather than type stuff in it’s much more natural to ask.”
Following unveiling of the National Digital Economy Strategy in May by communications Minister, Senator Stephen Conroy, companies such as Google expect further opportunities to develop in Australia’s online space by early adoption.
“I think as a country we have a choice of whether we leap into that and maybe we’re a bit early, but the benefits of being a little bit early is that you learn,” Leeder said.
“Obviously, the contrary perspective is why don’t we just wait and let other people figure it out, but then as a country we’re on the receiving end of other people’s great ideas.”
Key message: innovate
Leeder’s key message to technology leaders is to continue to innovate as a business no matter how uncomfortable it may be.
“I think it’s a very good approach as a business to understand what the user is doing, where the technology is going, and try to get in front of it, and that creates some interesting opportunities.”
While the Deloitte Access Economics report brought some interesting discoveries, Leeder emphasises that it is not Google Australia’s intention to give people advice with it.
“The report does not define what technology answer or access technology we’re recommending,” Leeder said.
“What we’re trying to do is contribute to the debate that’s going on in the country at the moment and hopefully add something to that to help us collectively make good decisions.”
The access the full report online, go to: www.connectedcontinent.com.au