IA chief executive Laurie Patton told the Digital Strategy Innovation Summit in Sydney on Wednesday there needs to be agreement between all political parties and industry on the direction Australia should take to achieve a national innovation agenda for the country.
“Australia created the heart pacemaker, the bionic ear, black box flight recorder and many more extraordinary inventions. So there is no reason why we cannot be a world leader in the next, Internet-driven, industrial era,” Patton said.
Repeating IA’s Forum proposal, Patton conceded that all groups have “much more to agree about than we have to argue over when it comes to our future economic prosperity”.
“Sadly, we’ve moved from a state of the art fibre to the premises (FttP) model to one that relies heavily on Telstra’s old and decrepit copper network – and the not so old, but not exactly modern, hybrid fibre coaxial (HFC) networks originally built for pay TV by Optus and Telstra 20 years ago,” Patton said.
“We didn’t argue over the need to provide other essential services such as roads, rail, water and power, so why are we doing it over this piece of critical 21st century infrastructure?”
IA has previously warned that much of the copper-based NBN will need to be replaced “in 10 to 20 years’ time, if not sooner”.
Noting that 2016 is the National Year of Digital Inclusion, Patton told the summit, “providing people with Internet access and the digital skills to use it is not just good for the government, it is good for the business sector too. There’s not much point talking about innovation strategies if we haven’t taken the general public along with us by giving them the ability to use the new products and services we are creating for them”.
Wednesday’s summit heard from digital heads of companies that are dealing with the need to innovate in order to improve their customer focus, including BUPA, UBank and Credit Union Australia.
An address from Westpac’s Daryl Babus titled “Innovation Isn’t A Dirty Word” set the scene for a number of speakers who spoke about the challenges in getting traditional organisations to embrace change based on digital innovation. Speakers from Telstra, LinkedIn and Super Retail Group also outlined their strategies for digital innovation.
Patton encouraged the summit audience to consider whether innovation was leading to a better future, and cautioned against an unquestioning acceptance of the so-called “gig economy, based on a succession of short term assignments”.
“This might seem attractive when you are young and fancy free,” Patton noted.