Interview: Dr Flavio Romano, Principal Regulatory Economist Telstra

Flavio Romano has been recently appointed to the newly created role of Principal Regulatory Economist with Telstra, Australia’s leading telecommunications company. He is responsible for overseeing the economic analysis of regulation during a period of intense change in the Australian telecommunications sector.

In his prior role as the inaugural Senior Economist with Infrastructure Australia, Dr. Romano led the programme for advising on strategic challenges to Australia’s economic infrastructure — such as urban population growth pressures and the role of information technology in improving the sustainability of urban transport networks.

In previous roles with the Australian Treasury, Dr. Romano managed policy projects relating to the effectiveness of the economic regulation of infrastructure networks for enhancing innovation and economic growth.

We spoke with Flavio to learn more about these issues which he will discuss at CeBIT’s AusInnovate Conference.

Australian Infrastructure Task

Australian Infrastructure Task

His main message is that there are massive existing opportunities in Australia where smart infrastructure could be utilised to extract efficiency and avoid costly new infrastructure builds.

Romano told us that the public sector is heading for a fiscal squeeze, if we don’t take opportunities now when will we do it? His talk at CeBIT will mention several smart infrastructure opportunities that can be taken in the Australian market.

He said that “one infrastructure challenge is that of urban population growth. According to the ABS capital cities are set to hold 67% of the Australian population by the 2050′s, growing by 10.4 million people compared to the present. If we think about the way urban infrastructure is handling the current load placed upon it, how much more will it struggle in the future with even heavier usage?”

There have been and continue to be enormous changes in the structure of the Australian economy from resources to services, banking, finance, education, legal etc. These sectors are more digitally demanding of infrastructure.

Romano emphasised that there are real opportunities to use digital infrastructure, particularly with the advent of ubiquitous fibre broadband via the National Broadband Network (NBN), to make real inroads into deferring costly builds of new infrastructure and increasing efficiency of how we use existing infrastructure.

Example 1: There is a big opportunity for government departments to lead by example, encouraging their staff to tele-commute. Asking even just 20% of an organisation’s workforce to telework via fast broadband for a day/week would cut office space requirements, reduce office heating/cooling bills, lessen the pressure on urban transport systems and so forth.

Example 2: Romano says that electricity “shortages [are] predicted on the East Coast from 2014″ unless further investments are made soon. Echoing the thoughts of another AusInnovate speaker Paul De Martini, Romano said that another big opportunity is in the use of smart meters. There is a moratorium on their mandatory use at present in Victoria and NSW. Even then these existing smart meters only manage time of day pricing not fuel sources, interruptibility of supply, emissions or other dimensions.

Register Now for CeBIT’s AusInnovate Conference on 22 May 2012. AusInnovate is the leading platform in Australia for connecting research, industry and government communities.