Closing Remarks to the Digital Economy Forum
FRI 05 OCTOBER 2012
Thank you very much. Can I thank everybody for coming along today and for participating in this discussion. I think it’s been a truly fascinating one and we have had people following the discussion online and participating in the Twitter conversation.
When we were trying to work out who to get together it’s always a difficult judgement call, and we did cast fairly widely from people who have been involved in their own small business start-ups – and thank you very much to them for coming along – through to some of the giants in the world of the digital economy.
We wanted people coming at this from a variety of perspectives, and I think the power of that combination has been on display today. So thank you very much to everyone for coming along and being involved in it.
In terms of take-out messages, I think Andrew earlier on talked about this as Australia’s time; this is our time. But we don’t have an endless opportunity to exploit the benefits that we have as a nation and to set up for what the future is going to bring. So there’s a real sense of urgency that we’ve got to be working together now to seize the maximum opportunities that we can for the future.
I was taken by Ian’s words about if we are to get those opportunities together, we need to bring together the dreamers, the doers and the dollars. I think that’s a good set of words about how we can maximise the potential of this age.
And I was taken too by Phil’s words about the enabling power of the National Broadband Network – not a word wasted – that opposition to the NBN is “stupid” and we need to get this technology – ubiquitous broadband – out there, because of how it will change our economy, how it will change service delivery and how it will change productivity.
It’s fallen to me to try and come up with the difficult task of synthesising the discussion and perhaps pointing a few directions forward.
What I’m going to do is point four directions forward, but then I’m going to take away the rest of what we’ve talked about today and we will keep in contact with people in various ways.
It seems to me two things we should do in the very short term.
There is clearly a short term issue about the skills pipeline into ICT. It’s been raised around the room, it’s not something that we can let drift, because when people point to enrolment patterns now in our universities there is a real reason to be concerned, that in the relatively short term we will not have available to us the skills sets we need, the software engineers for example.
So I will ask Chris Evans who isn’t with us today, who is the Minister for Skills and Tertiary Education, to meet with a breakout number from this group to really bare down on that question in the relatively short term.
So I think that that’s something we can and we should do.
Two, I’ve been taken by the conversation about telework, about the changing nature of workplaces, about what that can do for workplace productivity, workplace participation, for the options and choices that working people want. For the shape of our cities and our nation, where people can live, and still do the work that they want to do.
We do actually have a goal for the Australian Government about having at least 12 per cent of employees teleworking at least one day a week by 2020. We’ve already set that goal, and we do have this focus coming up with a week that will showcase what can be achieved by telework.
But I was also taken by the discussion that we, as a substantial employer, have got an obligation to model behaviours. And so what would I suggest too, is that in the relatively short term we get a breakout number from this group to meet with the secretaries of our departments, so across the public service – and with the Public Service Commissioner – to talk about Australian Government leadership in this area and what we can model as a major employer.
Thirdly, we’ve all been talking about the cloud.
For one of the less technically savvy people in the room I’m conscious that in ordinary parlance, clouds are not a good thing. Storm clouds gathering on the horizon, a cloudy day is not as good as a sunny day. So there would be a lot of people who are probably thinking I’m not taken by this dialogue about a cloud. I’m not sure about what cloud computing is, what it does and why it’s supposed to be a good thing, and how it could possibly fit with my world and what I do and my work.
A lot of the contributions really have been about the power of cloud computing. But also the need to spread understanding about what this mean, particularly for small and medium-sized enterprises.
So I will ask Minister Conroy to bring people together in a discussion about that. I think it needs to be a genuine government-industry partnership, and for us to embark on a cloud computing strategy so that we can capture in terms that are going to make sense to people, what is very powerful about this and do it in a synthesised way. So if Minister Conroy could do that I’d be very grateful.
Fourth, we have been in the process of putting together a Cyber White Paper. This really goes to something Suzanne brought to the table. We’ve been in the process of putting together a Cyber White Paper. White Papers are of course powerful cross-government strategic documents that then drive government actions and policies for a long period of time to come.
One of the White Papers that will shortly be delivered is the White Paper about our changing opportunities in this Asian Century of growth.
But having listened to the discussion today I think we should broaden what we have been conceptualising as the Cyber White Paper, which would get people thinking about the security space, which of course is important. But I think we should be broadening that out so it is more a digital White Paper and helps us capture some of the more profound and longer term issues that have been brought to the table.
There was the discussion about skills and ecosystems and how we leverage all of this to sustain the development of the digital economy and the transformation of our economy generally. The sort of skill settings that requires, the innovation settings that that requires.
I think we should try and bring that to the table for a broadened look through this White Paper and we’d not only take what’s happened in the conversation here today into that process, but we’d be calling on individuals around the room to be making some direct contributions to that process too.
So they are the four action items I’d like to outline now. I think that there is more that we can do and Minister Conroy, Minister Shorten and I will take the discussion from this table and have a think about what else.
But it really has been a very, very energising conversation and I do want to thank you for that. And we’ve got a lot of work to do together in the future, so we will certainly be staying in touch.
So we will release you now to do whatever you normally do on a late Friday afternoon, early Friday evening. If a glass of good Australian wine is involved, that would seem to me a fairly appropriate outcome for this time of the week.
Thank you very much for all of your efforts during the course of the day. Thank you.