ANU to map Australia's telecommunications resilience

22 November 2022

When telecommunications and digital services go down, Australia and Australians grind to a halt

A first-of-its kind project led by The Australian National University (ANU) will holistically map the resilience of Australia's telecommunications sector.  
 
Funded by the Australian Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts (DITRDCA), the independent study will be conducted by the ANU Tech Policy Design Centre. 
 
ANU Vice-Chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt said telecommunications underpins every other sector in the Australian economy. 
 
"Telecommunications drives economic growth, national productivity and innovation and keeps Australians connected to each other and the world," Professor Schmidt said.  
 
"When telecommunications and digital services go down, Australia and Australians grind to a halt.   
 
"I'm pleased to announce the ANU Tech Policy Design Centre will lead an independent study into the resilience of the sector. This is an issue of vital importance to the nation and all Australians. 
 
"As the national university ANU works tirelessly to serve the nation every day -- and this detailed examination of a fundamental sector for Australia is an excellent example of that."  
 
The ANU-led project will engage stakeholders from across governments, industry, utility providers, emergency services, the risk and disaster management community and academia to develop a comprehensive risk and resilience profile of Australia's telecommunications sector. 
 
"The 2019-20 bushfires, the pandemic, floods and cyber incidents are just a few examples of recent events that have tested the resilience of the sector," project lead Professor Johanna Weaver, Director of the ANU Tech Policy Design Centre, said.  
 
"In some instances - including during the pandemic - the sector shone. On other occasions, its resilience has been found wanting. There is a lot to learn from each of these events. 
 
"By studying risks at the sector level, this project will equip future decision makers with the tools to design effective policy that minimises disruption and improves the resilience of this essential infrastructure which Australians depend on every day."  
 
The project will take an "all-hazards approach", encompassing natural disasters, systemic failures and human-driven disruption. It will also examine positive case studies, such as how the sector kept Australians connected in the face of unprecedented network demand during COVID.   
 
Deputy Secretary Richard Windeyer said The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts is pleased to support this project.  

"The project will provide an independent evidence base to inform future Australian government decisions," he said.    
 
"It will provide a valuable evidence base to increase the resilience of Australia's telecommunications sector as a whole. It will be an invaluable tool for individual firms to prepare their own risk and resilience plans." 

The project aligns with Infrastructure Australia's 2021 Australian Infrastructure Plan and lessons from the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements 2020. 

CEO of the communications industry association, Communications Alliance Ltd, John Stanton, said the telco sector was already keenly engaged in the project and welcomed the opportunity it provides to build on existing industry initiatives. 

"Australia's communications networks have stood up well to the unprecedented challenges thrown at them in recent years by natural and malevolent threats," he said. 

"Telco carriers have strengthened key network infrastructure and back-up capabilities and improved coordination with emergency authorities and key stakeholders such as the energy industry.  

"The work being led by ANU experts will, we believe, add value to that vital ongoing mission."  

For more information, or to participate in the study, email techpolicydesign@anu.edu.au