The Digital Wave Sweeping Australia

The Australian government is taking measures to ensure the country isn't left behind


The Australian government is not known for its digital proficiency. In fact, just 43% of Australians said that their leadership ‘understands digital trends and technology,’ and some of the services that have been moved online are frustratingly difficult to navigate. But the government is working to update itself, and their Digital Transformation Office (DTO) - established in July 2015 - has been given the specific remit of dragging their services into the 21st century, to ‘improve in-house digital capabilities in government agencies, and establish common platforms that help make all of government more efficient.’

Paul Shetler was the man handpicked to spearhead the government’s digitization, and his first year as part of the team has been a successful one. The DTO is ‘not the startup, but the incubator,’ and has been focused on bringing all government services together to develop their own areas of its digital services. Shetler is intent on delivering ‘consistency, especially in the user experience,’ and the focus on the UX is one of the organization’s key successes; the site now has uniformity and a consistency across its pages and services, making the site as a whole far easier to navigate. The need to update is clear - according to Computer Weekly, only 27% of Australian respondents said they felt confident about their organization’s readiness to respond to digital trends.

And the overhaul is not limited only to government-specific services. Education, too, is due a digital push. The government’s program to better the population’s understanding is entitled ‘Embracing the digital age,’ and it is providing $51 million over the next five years to improve education’s grappling with STEM, essentially ensuring that the youth have the digital literacy to enter the modern job market.

The government is running ICT summer schools, online computing challenges, coding competitions and wider support for teachers in implementing the new Digital Technologies curriculum. The initiatives will commence from July 1 and are designed to inspire more young Australians to pursue careers in digital or STEM industries. The government quotes the fact that an estimated 75% of jobs in the fastest-growing industries in the next five to 10 years will need STEM skills and almost all jobs will require ICT literacy, and their drive to offer these is encouraging if a little belated.

Tourism Australia is also updating its practices in the hope of increasing its marketing opportunities, and it has appointed its chief financial officer (CFO), John Mackenney as the first ‘general manager for digital transformation’. He will report directly to Tourism Australia’s CMO and takes up the new post on September 1 as the group look to enable greater focus on digital. ‘John has done an outstanding job as our CFO as well as taking the lead on our digital analytics, and playing a role in the digital transformation program to date,’ said Lisa Ronson, CMO. Mackenny will work with both a content team and a social team to manage the move onto digital and mobile and co-ordinate marketing campaigns accordingly.

Agriculture may not seem the industry most desperate for digitization, but the government have also unveiled a number of measures intended to boost innovation and entrepreneurship in Australia’s vital agriculture sector. Australia considers itself perfectly placed to exploit the opportunities created by Asia’s burgeoning middle class, according to the Huffington Post, and the measures are being implemented to ensure that farmers are at the cutting edge of technology. Trading apps and drone mapping are just two of the ideas that could revolutionize a digital agriculture industry, and agribusiness in Australia is heading into an exciting period, with money moving away from the mining industry and into other areas.

The measures come because Australia’s digital economy is in serious need of a revamp. Progress has been slow, and Ernst & Young, amongst others, have been calling for government innovation in the area for some time. The country’s window of opportunity in terms of becoming a digital leader on the world stage is growing smaller by the month and, resultantly, the measures have been met with almost uncontested praise. It could be the case that the investment has come too late but, with money and focus now being funneled into Australia’s digital future, the CEOs and government officials holding back change may be forced to reconsider for the future.

Innovation Enterprise is hosting the Chief Digital Officer Forum in Sydney this October, looking at the challenges and opportunities presented by digital development - will you be joining us? 

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