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Aligning Broadband and Healthcare

For many years I have been saying that in order to generate business cases that will support the developments of national broadband networks it is necessary to take into account the social and economic benefits of such investments. The reality is that these benefits do not show up on the balance sheets of the traditional telecoms infrastructure companies and this is a key reason they are reluctant to make such investments.

One example of such benefits… it has been said that by moving into e-health $30 billion could be saved over 10 years in Australia.

There are very few politicians who would argue against the transformation from the current economy and society towards one that will be digital; as a matter of fact many politicians are saying that we are already in a digital environment. That being the case, why then is it so difficult to develop policies and strategies that will lead to the underpinning of these developments by proper infrastructure investments?

Any business model for such infrastructure investment should include the economic and social benefits, and at a high level the governments of every country are already aware of the savings that need to be made in order to sustain quality healthcare and education services.

On the other side of the economy, all the leading companies operating in the digital economy (Google, Cisco, IBM, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Intel, etc.) are constantly knocking on the door of governments, arguing for policies that will see the development of a proper digital infrastructure.

The key requirements of such an infrastructure are: high levels of capacity, robustness, low latency and reliability; furthermore it needs to support proper security and protection of privacy. And last but not least, affordability and, above all, ubiquity.

In order to get those transformations underway all citizens need to be connected to digital infrastructure; otherwise those mass transformations in, for example, healthcare, education and government services simply will not happen. The same applies to commercial application—a mass market is a prerequisite for ubiquitous e-commerce to take place.

A very positive move has now been made by Tom Wheeler, chairman of the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC). He recently announced the launch of a new Connect2Health Task Force, which aims to use the agency’s expertise to better intersect broadband connectivity, advanced technology and health. The task force will consider ways to accelerate health IT adoption by leveraging broadband services.

According to the chairman:

The Commission’s top priority must be to make networks work for everyone. Broadband itself is not the goal—it is what broadband enables. We must leverage all available technologies to ensure that advanced healthcare solutions are readily accessible to all Americans, from rural and remote areas to underserved inner cities. By identifying regulatory barriers and incentives and building stronger partnerships with stakeholders in the areas of telehealth, mobile applications and telemedicine, we can expedite this vital shift.

The FCC is showing clear international leadership here, and it is hoped that its example will be followed in other jurisdictions that are still struggling with their high-speed broadband infrastructure investments.

By Paul Budde, Managing Director of Paul Budde Communication

Paul is also a contributor of the Paul Budde Communication blog located here.

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