Sorry – the answer is probably not (unless you are someone who uses a much younger image on your Facebook profile).
But there is a good chance that faster broadband can help us deal with some of the issues that we will have to face as Australia’s population ages.
Figures from the soon-to-be-released Intergenerational Report from the Australian Government show that by 2050 there would be only 2.7 working-age Australians for every person aged 65 or more. This contrasts to a figure of 7.5 working-age Australians for every person aged 65 or more 40 years ago, and about five today. Almost a quarter of the population will be aged 65 or older by 2050.
These figures have significant consequences for both the nation’s productivity – in terms of the number of non-working Australians that will need to be supported – and potentially for healthcare costs. The Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has already foreshadowed the possibility of cutting services in order to manage spending as the population ages.
Contrast this then to statements made by the Federal Minister for Broadband, Communication and the Digital Economy, Sen. Stephen Conroy, at the Realising our Broadband Future forum in Sydney late last year. He quoted a study by Access Economics (conducted for IBM) that showed that investment in smart technologies supported by broadband in electricity, health and transport could add more than 70,000 jobs in 2014. A second report by the Centre for International Economics stated that faster broadband could life the nation’s economic output by 1.4 percent after five to six years.
Such boosts are going to be necessary if the economy is to avoid suffering a decrease in the rate of productivity growth as a higher percentage of adults leave the workforce.
Broadband can also play a significant role in assisting in reigning in the costs of healthcare. Research organisations such as the CSIRO and NICTA are currently engaged in the development of devices and services that would enable many routine check-ups to be conducted at home, removing some of the burden on medical staff and saving patients the hassle and cost of travelling to health facilities.
There is also the potential for periodic or fulltime monitoring of outpatients in their homes. Such services however require ubiquitous and reliable connections in order to be effective. That means better fixed and wireless broadband access.
It is hard to argue against the overall productivity gains that have been delivered to business and government through the adoption of internet services. There is no reason to think that those gains won’t continue as services improve.