Australia

Mobiles aren't essential tech, experts say

Experts say power, food and water are essential to our existence, not the mobile phone. (AAP)

Advancements in technology mean there are some things we can no longer live without, but experts say the mobile phone is not one of them.

Advancements in technology mean there are some things we can no longer live without in modern-day Australia.

While some people may think they can't exist without their mobile phone, experts say power, food and water are essential to our existence - not the phone.

Technology adviser Rob Livingstone says infrastructure like electricity, water and utilities are now all reliant on computers and the internet.

"We can do without Facebook and we can do without websites, but you cannot do without critical services such as food production and supply or electricity," he told AAP.

Public relations and social media guru Catriona Pollard said people's perceptions about what they couldn't live without was likely very different from reality.

"From a social media perspective, we can live without it very easily," she told AAP.

"But I think that we get addicted to digital. The statistics are something like 50 per cent of people admit to being addicted to the internet and their devices."

While she thinks we can live without social media, she does not think we can live without some technology now.

Ms Pollard said advancements in computers and the internet had completely changed Australia's culture.

"It's what the technology and the apps within the computers enable us to do," she said.

"It's things like ... people who are living remotely have access to specialist doctors now through technology."

Mr Livingstone said the downside of society's reliance on the internet and other technologies to run critical services is the potential increase in the risk of cyber attacks.

He said while computer-based control systems had been used for decades, the use of the internet to provide basic supplies like electricity meant the threat of disruption was now "global and very real".

"Should any of these services be compromised, are broken or hacked - which then results in the destruction or loss of the physical service - that's the real risk," he said.

"This is known as the digital to physical risk; it has a physical impact on people's lives, that's the bottom line.

"For example, a hacker in an overseas location could infect any particular country's critical infrastructure without physically even being in the country."

Mr Livingstone said governments and businesses were spending "large amounts" of money to mitigate the risks of cybercrime.

"In the cyber arms race between the good guys versus the bad guys, sometimes the bad guys win and sometimes the good guys win," he said.

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