Australia’s population has grown over the past 40 years at an average annual rate of 1.4 per cent per annum, taking Australia’s total population to approximately 22.4 million in 2010. Australia also has a distinctive population distribution, being one of the most mobile and spatially concentrated of any country. It is highly urbanised, with 87 per cent living in urban areas, including 64 per cent in capital cities. Current projections suggest Australia’s population will continue to grow over time, but at slower rates than in the past.
This population pressure, together with a changing climate, is altering the natural environment and having a significant impact upon the way Australians live. The effects of climate change present challenges requiring new and innovative ways to make more efficient use of energy in order to help reduce Australia’s current and projected levels of greenhouse gas emissions.
Additionally, better use of existing infrastructure—changes in the operation, pricing or use of existing infrastructure to solve problems without the need for investment in additional capacity— was identified as one of the challenges facing Australia in the National Infrastructure Priorities report.
Smart use of technology in an NBN-empowered digital economy could be an important tool to assist in the managing of these challenges by:
- improving productivity and efficiency in use of energy infrastructure to assist maintaining our energy needs and minimise our environmental impact
- promoting increased adoption of teleworking, including within the government sector, assisted by the availability of ubiquitous high-speed broadband to all premises and businesses
- using sensors to enable more efficient use of existing infrastructure and transport systems and reduce pressure for new infrastructure
- reducing pressure on capital cities by allowing businesses to establish and conduct their operations online in regional and rural Australia, as easily as in a metropolitan area.
An Australian study has estimated that the adoption of smart technologies in electricity, irrigation, health, transport and broadband could add more than 70,000 jobs to the economy by 2014 and increase GDP by 1.5 per cent over the next decade.