2014 Infrastructure

A3.0 Infrastructure

Infrastructure – all those roads, bridges, airports and more – how to use them better, build them better and fund them is one of the hottest topics today.  The G20 identified it as a $40 trillion dollar opportunity.

At the same time we are getting cheaper sensors of all kinds that are easy to network, most people have smartphones, and governments are making more datasets available than ever before.  It’s now easier than ever to build solutions to help people and businesses get more out of infrastructure – just think of all the amazing services now available in transport: GoCatch, founded in Melbourne, or Uber and the rich apps for public transport.  These services wouldn’t be possible without the technology to geo-track taxis and public transport and plot them on maps.

Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) are an increasingly important example of this smarter infrastructure and in 2016 Melbourne is hosting the Global ITS Congress, so developing a national consciousness of the event in an important role for Australia 3.0.

Against this backdrop, Australia 3.0, is holding a hackfest themed on infrastructure and transport. Developers are invited to come and play with the datasets that the Victorian government and commercial players are making available (check out a few at data.vic.gov.au, with more to come). A meetup group will be set up for registrations in July.

The event has the support senior decision-makers with a deep understanding of the challenges and opportunities in the transport and infrastructure space who are keen to work with developers on resolving some of the burning issues in transport and running our cities and to help us invent the services of the future.

Australia 3.0 Infrastructure Stream Leader
Dean Economou

Register your interest to participate in Australia 3.0 and identify your area of interest via the Get Involved form

Register for the Virtual Roundtable via register@australia30.com.au

2014 Infrastructure Stream Partners

     NictaITS Aust  SIBA logo datavic  


2014 Mining

Australia3.0 mining

The Australian mining industry faces some significant challenges over productivity and sustainability (social licence to operate).  Decreasing ore grades, deeper mines, higher input costs and complex regulation have all contributed to declining productivity and hence reducing our global competitive advantage.  The mining industry needs to also maintain the confidence of the communities in which they operate around health, safety and environmental management.

Australia 3.0 in 2014 will embark on an ambitious process to drive the innovation agenda in Australia aligned to the Mining industry priorities. The outcome will be to generate innovation ideas via new partnerships to continue the work begun last year on common goals and a shared commitment to address key business issues facing the Australian and global mining industry.

The key element of this year’s Australia 3.0 Mining program is to identify and prioritise the key challenges facing the mining sector post the recent ‘mining boom’.  New ideas will be developed to address these challenges and that take advantage of disruptive ICT for enabling virtual working across the minerals value chain.

Specific focus areas will be chosen leading up to the event to maximise the opportunity for traction around compelling value propositions in areas such as:

  1. Sustainability – health, safety, environment and community (HSEC)
  2. Critical infrastructure – managing networked assets such as conveyor belts, train lines, roads, pipelines, power, telecommunications
  3. Innovation – life cycle innovation from idea to commercialisation

Particular emphasis will be on how improvements in these areas will also lead to significant improvements in productivity and so be sustained over time.

Based on prior years of Australia 3.0 debates, participants will be drawn from a broad cross section of the mining sector with both ICT and Mining backgrounds. This is a collaborative effort involving many stakeholders in which the underlying common element is the role of ICT in driving innovation in the mining sector.

Australia 3.0 Mining Stream Leader
Colin Farrelly

Register your interest to participate in Australia 3.0 and identify your area of interest via the Get Involved form

Register for the Virtual Roundtable via register@australia30.com.au

2014 Health

Australia30 health

Future health systems will be influenced by a number of factors outside the control of health system leaders. Recent research identified six critical uncertainties that might significantly reshape the context in which health systems form and operate in were identified:

  • Attitudes towards solidarity
  • Origins of governance
  • Organization of the health innovation system
  • Access to health information
  • Influence over lifestyles
  • Health culture

This year’s Australia 3.0 Health stream will focus on the organization of the health innovation system within the country and do so from alignment with the key related uncertainties listed above.  Industry leaders acknowledge that we need to discuss the Attitudes and Access to individual data, that governance is changing to be more aligned to local needs and that there is and will continue to be a growing gap between those that take control of their healthy living and those that do not.

The question posed is how do we bring together in a ‘Collaboration Model’ the various industry groups so that we are able to create a ‘Australia Book’ of innovation and engage the operational side of the industry on how we maintain a dialogue of innovation from within and from outside. Can we create a ‘Health Innovation Hub’ as an industry driven capability?

Australia 3.0 Health Stream Leader
Denis Tebbutt

Register your interest to participate in Australia 3.0 and identify your area of interest via the Get Involved form

Register for the Virtual Roundtable via register@australia30.com.au



2014 Government Services

Australia30 gov 2014


Capitalising on Australia’s “data opportunity’ is the focus of the Government Services stream at Australia 3.0 in 2014. Run as an ‘ideation’ session for a thoughtful dialogue on the future role of technology in driving better Government service delivery outcomes by use of Big Data Analytics and Open Data analysis. Related underpinning issues such as skills of the future, privacy concerns and security dimensions will also be covered. A series of questions will be posed in this dialogue, starting with:

  1. What is the role of Government?
  2. What are the Major Challenges to be addressed to drive productivity in Government Services delivery?
  3. Government ICT Policy – What are the limiting factors on Engagement and Open Government?
  4. What limits opening up Government Data?
  5. What is the role of publically funded innovation in terms of driving Productivity?
  6. What are the workforce and skills challenges that need to be solved in achieving improved Government service delivery?

Despite calls from both Federal and State Ministers, Australia appears to be relatively slow to “open up” data sets, falling behind the USA and the UK. Likewise policies encouraging innovation, funding research and incentives for entrepreneurs are very important in developing a more sophisticated economic base. Finally with a move to greater focus on digital delivery of Government services, there are a series of workforce and skill challenges that need to be addressed. These changes all require us to adapt traditional decision-making to a more open, interactive environment.

Australia 3.0 Government Services Stream Leaders

Ian Birks ian.birks@skrib.net
Ian Oppermann ian.oppermann@sirca.org.au

Australia 3.0 Government Services

2013 Australia 3.0 Government Services stream examined what the obstacles to digital transformation are across the public sector

In a digital society, with access to information at our fingertips, we expect governments to be more open, more accountable and more efficient. Increasingly we demand that government services be available ‘anywhere, anytime’, similar to many other business services.  In Australia, whole-of-government reforms have continued in the past decade, aimed at improving the efficiency of the economy and government service delivery.

Both State and Federal governments are recognising that there are significant benefits to be gained, both for citizens and for government, in taking a more strategic and citizen-centric approach to service delivery. This implies a service delivery transformation, a greater reliance on evidence based policy and decision making, and a much greater degree of information sharing.

2013 Government Services Moderators Ian Birks and Ian Oppermann 

Ian Opperrmann CSIRO, Government Services Stream Co-Leader

Ian Opperrmann CSIRO, Government Services Stream Co-Leader

Ian Birks, ASR, Australia 3.0 Government Services Stream Co-Leader

Ian Birks, ASR, Australia 3.0 Government Services Stream Co-Leader

Government Services Subject Matter Experts

Athol Chalmers

Alan Dormer

spire sliver

2013 Government Services 

The Challenge

Australia’s Gross Domestic Product is currently just over $1.5Tn (ABS – Sep 2012). Of this, approximately 6.4% is federal spending, 10.8% is State and Local Government spending, and 4.5% is public capital expenditure. Total Government (excluding defence) contribution to GDP (i.e. spending on capital projects, goods, services and salaries) is approximately 23% of GDP or $345 Bn. This highlights:

  • the relative importance of State and Local Government spending, even though the majority of revenue is raised federally
  • The relative importance of capital expenditure

Based on Productivity Commission data, there is an estimated productivity gap of 10 to 15% of total expenditure in the provision of Government Services. Despite the repeated demand on governments at all levels to deliver a productivity dividend, this gap remains stubbornly high.

There are many factors associated with productivity in services, ranging from management skill to use of innovative work practices. Critically, there are major gains to be made using digitally enabled technologies.    We have become used to the relentless march of Information and communications technologies (ICT) transforming industry sectors.  The community expects Government Services to keep pace with the service innovation they see in other areas.  ICT can not only make delivery of services more efficient, they can also be used to transform how services are delivered, how personalised services become, and can put data driven evidence into the hands of those making policy.  The opportunity also exists to reduce the cost of complexity for SME’s when engaging in Government Tenders and provide the opportunity for much greater engagement of local companies in addressing government ICT challenges.

The problem is recognised and understood at senior levels of government and the inability to be able to innovate is often cited in terms of inability to accept risk, the lack of financial or other incentives to innovate, the need to impact areas or departments outside of direct control, and the cost of transformational change.

It was acknowledged that Federal, State and Local governments are taking steps to tackle the challenges identified in the Australia 3.0 forum and a need to better communicate existing activities was widely expressed. An overriding recommendation is that industry and government should operate in a more collaborative manner to develop better mutual understanding of the needs, challenges and existing activities of government, and the ability of industry.

It is further acknowledged that the challenge is not unique to Australia. The United States, United Kingdom and New Zealand have embarked on programs of reform for government services which address issues of open data, online engagement with citizens and reform of procurement processes (see for example “A Smarter, More Innovative Government for the American People” [1]).

2013 Government Services Recommendations

Priority areas:

The Australia3.0 online forum discussion regarding Government Services opportunities has been vibrant and featured a wide number of participants. The following areas of key priority focus have been identified during the online dialogue:

  1. Reform to government procurement processes
  2. Creating value by opening up government data
  3. Realising real value from Government use of Cloud Services

These priority areas are further set in context by some key horizontal enablers identified during the online dialogue, which include:

  1. Ubiquitous and safe online identification
  2. Use of open standards
  3. Better partnering and collaboration between government and industry to drive higher levels of innovation.
  1. Procurement Reform

The National Cloud Computing Strategy identified that the Australian Government, with an annual procurement of over $5 billion in ICT and associated services. The role of the Australian government as smart buyer is inhibited by existing procurement processes including the focus on acquiring solutions for existing system needs rather than anticipated needs, the limited ability to innovate, and mandate to limit risk to a very high degree. A major challenge identified by Government members of the group was the mandate to specify system requirements to very fine detail and then seek the lowest cost bidder, rather than take an outcomes or solutions focus where bidders address a stated challenge and work towards a known budget.


  1. Australian industry and Governments urgently must work together to accelerate the development of collaborative engagement models that lead to significantly better outcomes (i.e. lower cost, improved services, greater citizen satisfaction) through business innovation enabled by ICT. This will include the development of procurement and implementation practices with the associated development of consistent and sophisticated best-practice guidelines.

It is proposed that this recommendation be explored by working groups drawn from Government, the AIIA, ACS and Pearcey Foundation. 

2.        Opening up Government Data

Another major opportunity is to harness the “open data” revolution sweeping many sectors of the economy.  There are benefits for industry, community and for different parts of government themselves.  Despite calls from both Federal and State Ministers, Australian governments appear to be relatively slow to open up data sets, falling behind some countries such as the USA[2] and the UK[3].   In August, the US government had available on the Data.Gov web site

  • 200,442 datasets
  • 349 citizen-developed apps
  • 137 mobile apps
  • 171 agencies and sub-agencies
  • 87 galleries
  • 295 Government APIs

In August, the Australian government had 515 data sets available[4].

Data custodians are concerned about the unintended consequences of release of data (in particular, the impact on individual privacy). Without clarification of existing relevant regulations, there is also real concern about personal liability. The cost of making data available, shifting from paper to machine readable electronic format for example, is a real consideration. Embarrassment about data quality and the conclusions which will be drawn from incomplete or inaccurate data also add to reluctance.

Proving simple guidelines for those who have curatorial responsibility for existing data sets will help clarify when and under what circumstances data can be shared.  Looking forward, the explicit requirement to share new data collected or generated will help curators identify upfront the requirements for privacy, provenance or data format.


  1. That much greater priority should be given to opening up of existing and future government data sources in the current formats available. All levels of government should be encouraged to share best-practice.

3.        Realising real value from Government use of Cloud Services

The recent release of the Federal Government’s National Cloud Strategy again puts the focus on Government use of Cloud Services. The National Cloud Computing Strategy identifies that the Australian Government has a role in providing leadership on the appropriate adoption of cloud computing and in the flow on effect from terms and products procured by the government to other organisations in the economy. There is also tangible benefit to agencies, taxpayers and citizens in the informed adoption of cloud services by government.

The National Cloud Computing strategy was complemented by the release of AGIMO’s Document “Australian Government Cloud Computing Policy: Maximising the Value of Cloud”. The AGIMO document states “The Australian Government will be a leader in the use of cloud services to achieve greater efficiency, generate greater value from ICT investment, deliver better services and support a more flexible workforce.”

Nonetheless, AGIMO has been perceived to be conservative in the ways that it has addressed these issues. More broadly, the Australian Government’s approach to the adoption of cloud services has been too conservative.


That all levels of Government should seek an order of magnitude reduction in the cost of new systems and the cost of ownership of existing systems by exploiting new technologies such as open source software, software as a service and infrastructure as a service (cloud computing) where citizens’ expectations of security and privacy can be achieved.

Australia 3.0 Health

2013 Australia 3.0 Health stream examines obstacles to digital transformation within the sector.

Australia is increasingly facing a number of healthcare challenges. Continued population growth, demands for increased access to high-quality healthcare, an aging population, shortage of clinicians, and increasing budgetary pressures in healthcare institutions are just some of the issues faced by an already budget-constrained system.  Both public and private healthcare providers are responding by increasing their investment in technology, including in remote device and mobile communications to better enable their workforces and deliver quality care where and when it is needed.  In this context some of the key issues facing the healthcare industry include enhancing worker productivity, reducing human error, achieving quality healthcare outcomes and empowering patients to help manage their own health.

The business of healthcare, whether at a doctor’s office, hospital, outpatient facility or long-term care facility, often depends upon a delicate balance between urgency, accuracy, privacy, compliance and technology. This can make solving issues in the healthcare industry seem like a daunting task, but with the right technology, significant improvements are easily within reach.

Suzanne Roche

Suzanne Roche AIIA, 2013 Australia 3.0 Health Stream Leader

2013 Health Moderator Suzanne Roche 

Health Subject Matter Experts

David Hansen

Sarah Dodds

Leif Hanlen

Denis Tebbutt

George Margelis


health sliver

2013 Health Recommendations

1. Telehealth

The current resource stress on Australia’s health sector is unsustainable.

While technology offers an opportunity to improve the efficiency, effectiveness and quality of individual health services, the bigger opportunity lies in leveraging enabling technologies to develop new models of care. Telehealth – the use of ICT to deliver health services–provides a framework to rethink how health care services are delivered.

Despite various pilots and implementations of telehealth services, large scale adoption of telehealth, and specifically as an alternative to location based services, does not exist.
The actions outlined below aim to drive telehealth as a viable, sustainable health care. They are premised on an understanding that the barrier to telehealth adoption is not the technology but the absence of a clear, sustainable business model.

Identify and develop a strategy for the wide scale adoption of telehealth in Australia.

a) Supported by detailed macro-economic modelling develop a sustainable telehealth business model. This includes:
i. Identification of the specific patient groups that will benefit most from access to telehealth services
ii. Identification of the clinical services suitable for telehealth delivery
iii. Identification and review of current reimbursement models that can be applied to support telehealth service delivery
iv. Exploration of new reimbursement models that can provide required quality of care for selected population with suitable reimbursement for clinicians.
b) Based on the outcomes of (a), develop a large scale trial, engaging both public and private sector providers, of a proposed telehealth business model with a focus on demonstrating the value proposition to patient groups,clinicians and health funders.
c) Develop a telehealth education program for technology industry, clinicians, policy makers and health consumers.
i. Collect and summarise relevant evidence, educational content and associated literature on telehealth implementations.
ii. Develop educational programs suitable for various stakeholders in telehealth delivery including technology industry, clinicians, policy makers and healthcare consumers.

Australia 3.0 Mining

Australia 3.0 Mining Stream Leader Colin Farrelly

Australia 3.0 Mining Stream Leader Colin Farrelly

2013 Australia 3.0 Mining Group examined obstacles to digital transformation within the sector

The next generation improvements in mine productivity are likely to come from innovations in the digital economy, especially in the fields of automation and integration of the overall knowledge base seamlessly across the mining value chain. Digital productivity is core to this vision through dealing with large and complex data sets, extracting knowledge from data, building intelligent and automated machines suitable for remote operation and in integrating the mining process — from exploration through mining, processing and transportation.  Benefits from adopting a digital approach include the more effective use of scarce expertise, reduced process variance, and more informed and faster decision-making.

2013 Mining Resources Moderator Colin Farrelly

Mining Subject Matter Experts & Stream Speakers

  • Graham Shepherd
  • Dennis Franklin
  • Steve Guigni
  • Jonathan Law
  • Paul Heithersay
  • Paul Lucey

mining digital sliver

2013 Mining Recommendations

To respond to ever-increasing challenges and to achieve a step change in performance, mining companies have been experimenting with new business models and new technologies to reinvent the way operational processes are carried out.  The business value of rapid organisational adaptation has been demonstrated by the dramatic economic cycles in mining over the last decade.  In that time the use of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) has become increasingly fundamental to business operations.  ICT linked with new sensor and production technologies are now critical factors in both business productivity and business agility through the more effective use of scarce expertise, improved data and information analysis, reduced process variance, and more informed and faster decision-making.

All major mining companies are conducting significant initiatives that take advantage of new technologies, and there is an opportunity for Australia to be at the forefront of developing the ICT solutions that will play a fundamental role in this industry transformation in productivity.   Government has an important role in setting up the initial conditions for a flourishing SME market in Mining Equipment, Technology and Services (METS), including developing an agile and innovative ICT sector, and in attracting to Australia investment and expertise from the global mining industry, including product and services companies.

Further details are outlined in the Australia 3.0 – Mining Recommendations Communiqué

1.  Building on success from the adoption of technology in Mining

We recommend that an inventory of industry activities be compiled and made available on-line so that mining companies, research organisations, suppliers and government can better coordinate their individual efforts and not have to reinvent every component of the change.

The “ICT in Mining Inventory” would encompass:

1)    Case histories of successful innovations, including challenges overcome and benefits delivered

a) Collaborative research initiatives proposed or underway on technology enabled
b) Lessons learnt in governance practices for assessing and shepherding innovation
c) Key contacts to follow up any specific item

2) Processes and ongoing ownership to ensure the evergreen management of the

The resulting shared knowledge will increase the speed of uptake and the
value of benefits achieved from the adoption of technology driven innovation.

2.  Ideas identification and coordination on ICT enabled innovation in Mining  

We recommend that Government seed the facilitation of an Industry, Research and Government Forum that takes an active role in progressing joint “industry owned” initiatives to develop innovative technologies and processes.

A standing “ICT Innovation in Mining Forum” would:

a) Share innovation ideas for increasing industry-wide productivity
b) Build a “marketplace” for innovative ideas, participants, and providers
c) Lower costs for participants and build viable scale for providers
d) Encourage commercialisation of innovations onshore with Australian and overseas providers
e) Encourage broad sourcing of ideas through low barriers on participation (SME friendly)
f)  Provide ongoing ownership and management of the ICT in Mining Inventory from Recommendation 1

3.  Collaboration to overcome technical barriers in ICT innovation

We recommend Industry, Government, Research and other players come together with appropriate resources to resolve technology regulation and standards issues hampering technology adoption in Mining.  This will be most effectively achieved with seed facilitation by government, with ongoing funding and operation provided from Industry through the ICT Innovation in Mining Forum proposed in Recommendation 2.

Efforts on this “Industry Standard Platform” would focus initially on the potential for a common approach to:

a) Resolving spectrum assignment issues between regulators, suppliers and mining companies
b) Agreement on data interchange standards specific to Mining
c) Agreement on interoperability standards for automated equipment
d) Development of common core business models, particularly for new technology-enabled processes

Such collaboration in other industries has demonstrated the productivity gains that are achievable as a result of coordinated industry-wide initiatives, including the encouragement of an active SME market for niche solutions.

4.  Ensuring the future availability of required ICT skillsets

We recommend that Industry, Government, Research and the relevant tertiary training institutions come together to plan and assure the availability of appropriate skills required for the future health of the Mining Industry.  This will be most effectively achieved with seed facilitation by government, with funding and ongoing operation provided from Industry via existing mining and ICT industry associations.

This “Future ICT Skills Strategy” includes:

a) Building relevant ICT literacy skills into the training of future Mining specialist and leadership positions (Geologists, Engineers, Managers, etc).
b) Developing company strategies to maintain future relevant skills, and advanced corporate knowledge through industry peaks and troughs
c) Developing industry strategies for keeping key experience within the industry. Eg: applying skills to cross-industry research, innovation and knowledge base building initiatives.
d) Addressing challenges presented by the retirement of the baby boomer generation and consequential loss of knowledge and experience, as well as the opportunities presented by encouraging industry participation from a more technology-savvy generation.

Developing a coordinated strategy will be help build and maintain future relevant skills well as retain industry knowledge through the peaks and troughs of the mining cycle.

Australia 3.0 Mining Communique_tmb

Australia 3.0 Mining Communique

Farewell to the “Fair Go” in the age of Trump and the Internet?

Not Like America: How Australia can avoid the Trump effect

by Sandy Plunkett and Joanne Gray 

“Australians don’t want the income inequality, the corporate tax avoidance, high cost of healthcare, dysfunctional education programs and social problems that have become prevalent in America,” former ACTU secretary David Oliver says.

The Twitter feeds lit up with indignation last year when a Vanity Fair writer described Australia as “America 50 years ago, sunny and slow”, a country where we “still live and die with the plot turns of soap operas”.

Australians in the United States are often told they come from a country that’s just like America in a throwback era. It’s (mostly) meant as a compliment. Long before populist angst culminated in Donald Trump’s presidential triumph, it conveyed a nostalgia for a kinder, gentler past. But it’s also a sly dig at Australia’s perceived quaintness, insularity and naivete.

Nowadays, “Not like America” refrains are popping into our discourse more often – in parliament, at conferences and Q&A panels, at dinner parties and weekend barbecues – like a drumbeat warning against a perceived capitulation to American-style culture wars and the erosion of our much-loved egalitarianism and “fair go” ethos.

Trump’s election has drastically amplified the uncertainty about Australia’s future – not just among policy makers, but also the electorate at large.

As more value across the economy gets tied up in information, or “bits”, atom-based countries like Australia are sending billions of dollars to California with online transactions, tweets, movie downloads or Google searches.

“Australians don’t want the income inequality, the corporate tax avoidance, high cost of healthcare, dysfunctional education programs and social problems that have become prevalent in America,” former ACTU secretary David Oliver said in a National Press Club pre-US election debate on the future of employment. “People want high-paying jobs, high-quality jobs, secure employment, a strong social safety net and a greater share of benefits of increased productivity.”

His opponent, James Pearson, president of business lobby group the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, dismissed Oliver’s “Americanisation” label as the “new clickbait for the union movement”.

He reckoned it was way off the mark because our high minimum wage, strong social safety nets and progressive tax system are evidence of a “world of difference” between the American and Australian economies.

Who owns our future?

The ACTU represents only 15 per cent of Australia’s workers, but the “Not like America” rhetoric reverberates as real wages in Australia have stagnated for three years and the casualisation of jobs, in all sectors from retail to education, is increasing.

Arthur Sinodinos was sworn in as the fourth Innovation Industry and Science Minister in 16 months, in January.

Oliver gave digital-era villainy a name – Uberfication – where, he says, people can end up bidding in a reverse eBay-style auction for parcels of work. The danger, he says, is that anywhere, anytime opportunities become everywhere, all-the-time work, or no work.

Uber is just one of many highly capitalised 21st-century companies shaking up traditional industries and models of employment. Australian retailers are bracing themselves for Amazon’s local market entry, while other digital-era behemoths such as Google, Facebook and Apple are making greater inroads into other parts of the economy. This presents challenges for governments, regulators, employer organisations and unions alike. So far, we are struggling to keep up.

Driven by the internet, platform businesses, data algorithms and robotics, the digital revolution is making more industries and markets hyper-efficient, and human labour look increasingly expensive. Economists argue it is technology, not free trade, that has led to a hollowing out of the middle-class and high concentrations of wealth in the hands of those, mostly US, companies, that own and run these platforms and networks.

If Australians don’t want to be like America, we have to move faster to understand the underlying technologies, laws and mores driving digital-era modernity.

As president of the Business Council of Australia, Catherine Livingstone thanked the Prime Minister for putting innovation on the government’s agenda.

“The nation is coming to terms with a fork-in-the-road challenge,” says Adrian Turner, the chief executive officer of Data61, the data science arm of the CSIRO.


Adrian Turner (R) presenting the 2016 Pearcey Medal to Steve Baxter (C) with Pearcey Chairman Wayne Fitzsimmons (L)

Turner returned to Australia in 2015 after a stint in Silicon Valley. He is a genuine believer that Australia is capable of forging success in the digital age. But he’s surprised how much education still needs to be done. “Digital-era globalisation, network effects and rapid advances in automated decision-making are based on fundamental technological laws and there are different economic outcomes for leaders and followers. Before we can possibly measure and work through all the implications – for industry, for education, for work and for the benefit of a society that is unique in its fairness – we need to understand them. There’s still a lot of education that we need to work through before we can necessarily accelerate positive outcomes as a country.”

Something wrong with our ideas?

“Is it possible in a modern society to preserve all the prosperity and happiness of a nation so inimical to ideas?” wrote Donald Horne in his iconic and still-prescient work, The Lucky Country. It was 1964, the end of the second Menzies era, the last decade of the White Australia Policy and wool was our largest export. Meanwhile, across the Pacific, the silicon chip had just arrived on the scene and with it, a young Silicon Valley – birthed by giant US defence and aerospace companies and their renegade postwar spin-outs – was poised to usher in the modern computing era.

Fast-forward 50 years to November 2015 when a newly ensconced Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, in launching the National Innovation and Science Agenda (NISA), welcomed us to “the ideas boom”. The salutation fell flat. If innovation (most simply defined as the application and commercialisation of ideas) is the essential ingredient for healthy 21st-century economies, it was rejected by Australians in the July 2016 federal election.

The shallow catchcries “jobs and growth”, “agile and innovative” and “continuity and change” made a mockery of Turnbull’s promise that advocacy, not slogans, would be a hallmark of his government. More potent was the inchoate sense that “digital”, “innovation” and “agile” were code for job losses, not job growth. The politicians mouthing these slogans did little to convince the electorate they should be excited about that.

The scale of the challenge – of devising policies that will work, and communicating them – is recognised by some of Turnbull’s inner circle. Dr Martin Parkinson, secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, has said he feared the Australian public service was at risk of the fatal combination of “arrogance and ignorance”.

“In the APS we think disruption is something happening to other people, and conversely we seem to regard innovation as a buzzword or something that’s nice to have,” he told the annual Institute of Public Administration dinner in December. “I want to be clear: this is a false reality, and a dangerous one at that.”

In January, the ministerial travel rorts scandal led to a reshuffle that saw Australia’s fourth Innovation Minister in 16 months, Arthur Sinodinos, sworn in. He was reluctant to comment for this article given his newness to the portfolio. But in a separate interview just months before he supported Turnbull to wrest the leadership from Tony Abbott, Sinodinos zeroed in on the need for system-wide reform. “Real reform in response to technology-driven globalisation – and the conversation to bring the populace into the reform conversation – has been delayed for 25 years,” he said.

When asked, beyond NISA, what additional reforms are priority in 2017, Sinodinos said “The NISA is about incentivising innovation activity and collaboration across industry, science, academia and government. It’s a great first plank. But these things don’t operate in a vacuum and should be linked-in with macro-economic, competition, regulatory, employment, trade, and investment policies. My focus will be to connect the dots.”

Which brings us back to Horne’s follow-up questions in a section titled, “Nation without a mind”: Is Australia really inimical to ideas? Or has there been something wrong with the ideas presented to it?

The Lucky Country disrupted

Sandy Plunkett first raised the theme of the Lucky Country Disrupted at the 2015 Australia 3.0 Roundtable

Is our leadership today, in politics and business, curious and courageous enough to navigate an era of heightened uncertainty, higher unemployment and quite possibly, a lower standard of living? Is Australia’s egalitarianism and affluence under threat or even possible to maintain in the digital age?

Australia is the world’s 12th-largest economy, thanks largely to the deep richness of our mineral resources and agricultural land. We have a peaceful, ethnically diverse and religiously tolerant society (28 per cent of our population was born overseas); our education system, despite increasing angst about private versus public funding inequities and a slide in global rankings in the maths and sciences, is said to be world-class and is our fourth-largest export; we are creative; and our scientists and researchers produce a relatively high percentage (per capita) of the world’s top research. But the world continues to make demands on Australia and our record of response to those demands is patchy at best, the gaps easily glossed over throughout a resources boom and 25 years of uninterrupted growth.

For all the talk of technological innovation and disruption, few of Australia’s biggest and most powerful companies have truly embraced it. Prominent businesses are grappling with lacklustre growth prospects and a risk-averse culture. The government is yet to set the budget on a sound footing and is easily distracted when issues such as the backpacker tax or ministerial travel rorts flare-up.

The embarrassment of high-profile debacles in digitally delivered government services – the Australian Tax Office, Centrelink and the Census – serve to highlight our lack of tech savvy. We are struggling to make sense of how fast the world is shifting. We now understand we are giving our data away to the biggest global corporations who are using technology and business models that didn’t exist when our leaders were at school or university.

Tax revenue leaks away every time we use Netflix, Uber, Amazon and Google, even as they employ very few of us; rapid advances in 3D printing promise to upend manufacturing and global supply chains. Meanwhile, the threat of automation, or jobs being lost to artificial intelligence and robotics, is omnipresent. Professionals, skilled and unskilled workers alike, are already competing in a global market for work.

As George Megalogenis wrote in his Quarterly EssayBalancing Act (February 2016): “The supposed strengths of the Australian character – our openness, our love of technology, our pluck – have been notably absent in our attitude to the future. Put bluntly, we don’t have a plan. We know we need one, written jointly across government, business, trade unions and civil society. But we keep finding excuses to return to the trenches of our prejudice.”

The barbarism of now

The innovative ethos we’re being urged to embrace in the digital age assumes that relentless technological progress is inevitable and good. But its key advocates have rarely conceded the corrosive impact their inventions can also have on the rest of us.

the_next_100_yearsIn his bestselling book, The Next 100 Years, George Friedman, American geopolitical forecaster and CEO of Stratfor, sets out a compelling argument for why the computer’s binary logic has become the governing ethos of society. “Nothing exemplifies American culture more than the computer, and nothing has transformed the world faster and more thoroughly than its advent,” he writes.

“Computing culture is also, by definition, barbaric. The essence of barbarism is the reduction of culture to a simple, driving force that will tolerate no diversion or competition … Pragmatism, computers and Microsoft (or any other American corporation) are ruthlessly focused, utterly instrumental and highly effective. The fragmentation of American culture is real, but it is slowly resolving itself into the barbarism of the computer and the instrument that ultimately uses and shapes the computer, the corporation.”

Ruthlessness (and a mastery of “spin”) are much celebrated and highly rewarded attributes in the internet age. According to leading US tech analyst Mary Meeker, 11 of the 20 most valuable tech companies are in Silicon Valley, with seven in China and one in Japan. Tech insiders know there is little difference these days – in skills preferences and sales culture – between Wall Street and Silicon Valley. It’s all about the data and the speed with which it gets gathered, analysed and resold. As more value across the economy gets tied up in information, or “bits”, atom-based countries like Australia are sending billions of dollars to California with online transactions, tweets, movie downloads or Google searches.

In the era of Trump and Brexit, however, tech-sector insiders are being forced to acknowledge they have had a tin ear to the concerns of those working outside of it. Paypal co-founder, Facebook board member and libertarian Peter Thiel, put it this way: “Silicon Valley has been extremely successful over the last decade or so. But it’s been a success for specific companies.

“The story people in Silicon Valley always want to tell is one in which their specific success – as individuals, as companies – gets conflated with the story of general success and general progress in the US,” Thiel told the National Press Club in Washington last October. “The truth is one of specific success, but more general failure. You know, Silicon Valley promised us flying cars. But all we got was 140 characters.”

The only Silicon Valley tech titan to openly support Trump’s presidential run, Thiel was vilified by his billionaire tech-sector peers. (Amazon’s Jeff Bezos offered Thiel a ticket on his first rocket ride off the planet.) Thiel now has a front-row seat in the Trump transition team as science and tech adviser.

Other Silicon Valley insiders are highlighting the dark underside of the digital, data-driven era. In the book Who Owns the Future?, highly respected computer scientist Jaron Lanier delves into the destruction of the middle-class in the networked digital economy and the poisonous concentration of money and power that comes with it. Noting services like Google and Facebook only exist because of the social acceptance of a mass amount of distributed volunteer labour, Lanier writes: “Digital technologists are setting down the new grooves of how people live, how we do business, how we do everything – and they’re doing it according to the expectations of foolish utopian scenarios. We want free online experiences so badly we are happy to not be paid for information that comes from us now – or ever. That sensibility also implies that the more dominant information becomes in our economy, the less most of us will be worth.”

But as American tech hegemony increases, its leaders will move hard and fast to protect it. One indication? The tech sector swung its financial support away from the Democrats and behind the Republican Party in the November US presidential and congressional elections. “As these technology firms have become corporate behemoths, their concerns over government regulatory policy have intensified – on issues including privacy, taxation, automation and antitrust,” Thomas B. Edsall wrote recently in The New York Times. “These are questions on which they appear to view Republicans as stronger allies than Democrats.”

Permission to seek … tax cuts?

How does a country like Australia – with a relatively shallow digital-era talent pool and few technology giants – thrive and compete against such “ruthless pragmatism”? And what does digital-era change mean for the prosperity and the sense of fairness on which our social contract is supposedly based?

At the annual dinner of the Business Council of Australia in November 2015, just weeks after Turnbull became Prime Minister, then president of the BCA Catherine Livingstone – now the first chairwoman of the Commonwealth Bank – beamed with optimism. “[Prime Minister] … you have given us the permission to have conversations about things that matter to people and helped, through your own example, to make those conversations positive,” Livingstone said. “For some time now, the Business Council has been trying to start a conversation around fostering an innovation-capable economy to drive the next decade of growth and job creation.”

Permission? Livingstone’s use of the word exposes just how much we are accustomed to waiting for government to take the lead. By election time, the BCA’s ambition had narrowed to demands for corporate tax cuts. But tax cuts alone (some $48 billion over 10 years) won’t get us to where we need to go. Nor will a narrow battle over penalty rates. We seem stuck, ever-ready to preserve our physical property investments and the perks of leadership, but far less inclined to take risk and build 21st-century global businesses at scale.

Philip Lowe, now governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia, pinpointed the damaging impact of an ageing population on the nation’s productivity and innovation in a speech to the Sydney Institute in 2014.

“If we are to improve efficiency and advance technology, then innovation is required and innovation requires someone to take a risk … If ageing societies become inherently more risk-averse and less supportive of innovation – as I suspect they might – then we are likely to face a greater challenge to date in generating productivity growth.”

Communicating innovation and digital-era complexity was never going to be easy for a nation like Australia, which has earned great wealth by digging stuff out of the ground and growing and rearing stuff on the land. In the digital era we also need to mine and develop the stuff in our heads.

Beyond tech utopias and dystopias

More than 50 years ago, Donald Horne was far more acutely aware of technology’s coming ascendancy and its broad implications for Australia’s future than decades of analysis of his work has deliberated upon. The Lucky Country was then, and is now, a sharp critique of a nation lacking in originality and innovation, in a world he viewed as increasingly driven by both. Despite Horne’s warning, the phrase “the lucky country” became a catchcry of national self-congratulation.

In 2017, we have to resist such perceptions and dig deep into the pros and cons of how the digital economy works. Leaders can’t lead unless they study and understand digital-era laws. Until they gain that understanding, they can’t sensibly reform tax, labour market rules or competition policy, which are vital to ensure that the advances sought in the NISA agenda are diffused throughout the economy.

The only thing that the ACTU’s Oliver and the ACCI’s Pearson agreed on in the pre-election debate was a wistful recollection of the 1980s collaboration between business, government and unions during the Hawke-Keating era, which modernised Australia and set up the economy for decades of growth.

That growth era is expiring and the 21st-century version of that challenge is upon us. We must reject polarising views of tech dystopias or utopias. And the temptation that we can retreat to a more comfortable past is a lazy indulgence. Positioning Australia for the future will be hard, but it starts with the political, business and societal will to act. And we must act to avoid the social and political fractures that are multiplying around the world.

sandy-plunkett-150x150Sandy Plunkett is a founder of independent consultancy Innovation Clearinghouse. Sandy also is a member of the Pearcey Foundation National Committee and Pearcey Institute.
Joanne Gray is editor of BOSS. 

This article was originally published  in the Australian Financial Review/BOSS  Magazine on 10 February 2017.

2015 A3.0 Forum – The Lucky Country Disrupted

A30 Forum 2015 bannerOn Monday 16 November, a lively Australia 3.0 forum took place at Data61/NICTA’s HQ in Eveleigh. The topic entitled “The Lucky Country Disrupted” was a play on Donald Horne’s 1964 book “The Lucky Country” suggesting that Australia’s days of riding a wave may be nearly over.

The panel consisted of David Rohrsheim, GM Uber Australia and New Zealand, Jason Clare MP, Shadow Minister for Communications and Nick Abrahams, author “Digital Disruption in Australia”. The panel was moderated by Sandy Plunkett, Innovation and Entrepreneurship Consultant and National Committee member of the Pearcey Foundation.

The wide ranging discussion covered political, economic, cultural and social issues.


Watch on YouTube

Brief Summary

Australia is fortunate in many ways and has some pretty good value systems. But the flip side is is complacency. For example, there’s little cultural encouragement to start a new business. And even if one does, they may be judged within a “corridor of comfort”. The high achievers may be branded as a tall poppy. The ones that fail may be stigmatised.

Uber was used as an example of new technologies changing the world. The Uber experienced has shown just how unprepared Australia is for disruption. Whilst regulation plays a part, some of the backlash has been from vested interests unwilling to embrace change. Many companies are unprepared for new technologies or markets, as can be seen by looking at company boards which often lack directors with significant technology understanding and experience.

Whilst Silicon Valley is held as the poster child for new businesses, other parts of the US are similar to Australia and wondering how to invigorate their innovation sector. Singapore and Israel are often held up as examples. But these are cases of governments playing a large role. The change of federal leadership has been positive as the government seems more savvy about technology and the innovation community. Though the innovation community doesn’t rely on government encouragement. Nevertheless, the entrepreneurial community needs to lobby government in a much more structured and forceful way especially to better counteract the status quo.

The role of government is important to look at how technology can improve productivity and standards of living. But the challenge is which levers to pull. In the rush to embrace technology, it may be a mistake to push one type of technology. There are many aspects, taxation, investment, social obligations, intellectual property, access to data, regulatory controls, skills and other issues that need to be considered.

Overall, there was some feeling of optimism. We have many great examples of Australian technology companies that have gone global. In the new digital era, distance is no longer such a handicap and direct on-the-ground sales force not so important.

Whilst this event didn’t solve any problems, it did serve to gain some perspective on where Australia is, and should be heading. It is another step on the process of policy debate and formulation. Which is subtle, complex and human centric.

Vale Ian Birks

Ian Birks, ASR, Australia 3.0 Government Services Stream Co-Leader

Ian Birks Co-Chaired the Australia 3.0 Government Services Stream with Ian Oppermann 2012-14

Ian Birks was a rarity in our industry as he truly lived an ethos of collaboration. As an association leader he understood the value of working together to achieve a common purpose. It was his leadership of ASR and AIIA and as Chair of various entities that brought together often competing interests across industry, research and government. Ian in his affable way would inspire us to consider what could be, not just accept what was. 

Ian’s commitment to the industry as an advocate for Australian ICT internationally was instrumental in raising the profile of our industry working with Austrade and state governments within the region as Chair of COMICTA from 2008-2011. Representing the country in international associations, WITSA, ASOCIO and APICTA and as host of the Asia Pacific Digital Innovation Summit in 2009, Ian was well respected.

This passion for the role technology could play in his adopted country saw him spearhead the creation of Australia 3.0 in 2011. Kelly Hutchinson, Australia 3.0 Program Manager was with Ian when he and Charles Lindop (NSW Pearcey Co-Chair) came up with the idea to leverage the iAwards platform. 

“Ian felt that more could be done through a national forum where we could take the time to consider the big questions,”  Hutchinson said. “He challenged us to ask how can Australia better harness the potential of Innovation underpinned by ICT capabilities. We are still pursuing this in the collaborative forum he envisaged.”

Wayne Fitzsimmons as Australia 3.0 Chair reaffirmed the commitment to pursue the agenda begun in 2011. “In this our 5th year the evolution of A3.0 will be worthy of Ian’s legacy” said Fitzsimmons.

The Australia 3.0 Steering Committee sends their condolences to Ian’s family at this difficult time.

Australia 3.0 will be part of Reimagination Summit hosted by ACS and Pearcey Foundation in Sydney on 17 November 2015. 

Plans for 2015

It may be summer holidays but the team at Australia 3.0 are already planning activities for 2015. The Government Services and eHealth Streams and organising a February Workshop in Sydney to get the year underway.


Australia 3.0 is an annual set of events, which seeks to develop new solutions for complex issues critical to Australia’s development by providing direct engagement between government, industry and the innovation sector within a structured framework.

Increasingly Australian State and Federal Governments have promoted a policy position that leverages the Internet to engage more effectively with citizens, improve interaction between government agencies and with other sectors. Policy areas targeted include increasing transparency and unlocking value by making available more detailed data more frequently. Making accumulated public data sets (in a form which strips out personal information) accessible allows private users and developers to generate new value from them. Open access to data increases transparency, will help drive data driven decision making and promote a more open, interactive environment.

Many programs rely on the effective use of ICT, however challenges remain on how to deliver the efficiency or service quality payoffs promised by big data. On the demand side the level of digital literacy is a critical success factor for citizen uptake of services. Likewise a range of new skills and capabilities need to be introduced into Government agencies to achieve a positive digital transformation. On the supply side, the challenges are largely wrapped around breaking the paradigms of the past while addressing concerns of privacy, dealing with risk in a digital world and designing services fit for digital purpose. That means introducing new skills and capabilities into industries and Government agencies to achieve a positive digital transformation.

Round up of 2014

In 2014, the A3.0 Government Services and eHealth streams explored concepts which show promise for efficiency or service quality payoffs using government data and which deliver

  • Benefit to Australian Industry
  • Benefit to Government
  • Greater decision making transparency for the citizens of Australia
  • Reduced risk of implementation
  • Protection of the rights and sensitive personal information of citizens.

Proof of Concept Pathways

During 2014, the Australia 3.0 streams used a future “fully digital economy” as an organising framework to develop and test specific concepts of service creation and delivery which allowed Government to focus on where it provides the greatest value, and which allowed Government to adapt to changing citizen expectations. These concepts were tested to simultaneously ensure the oversight role of government was not undermined, allowed greater transparency in decision making and supported evidence based policy making as a fundamental principal.

To show the value of the concepts in today’s environment, several concepts are being developed as PoC ICT solutions. The concepts selected created obvious value whilst drawing on a minimal number of government data sets, a minimum number of stakeholders and require the fewest possible changes to existing systems. These concepts are also being mapped to future stages that allow a credible pathway to a “fully digital economy”.

Government Services and eHealth Streams

February Workshop Overview

Following the two-day event in Melbourne 28-29 August 2014, several concepts have been developed to Proof of Concept (PoC) stage. The objectives of the workshop in February 2015 are to:

  • Demonstrate the value identified by the PoC
  • Review the roadmap for these PoC to contribute to a “fully digital economy”
  • Identify data sets which support this roadmap and which lead to the greatest value creation
  • Explore pathways to make these enabling data sets available
  • Take input on the “fully digital economy” model and intermediate stages

Australia 3.0 will bring together prominent leaders and advocates engaged in the Government Services and eHealth debate for an invitation only workshop in Sydney on 18 February 2015.

If you are interested in being involved in this exciting initiative please contact the Stream Leaders or admin@australia30.com.au

A3.0 Government Services Program for 2014

Australia30 gov 2014

A3.0 Government Services Program for 2014

Objective: establish a collaborative forum of stakeholders committed to identifying sustainable new approaches to public service innovation through a Government Services Innovation Hub connecting digital, data and democracy.

2 days of focused collaboration to empathise, ideate, prototype and test lead by Abul Rizvi and Ian Oppermann. 


Abul SQ

Abul Rizvi

Former Deputy Secretary, Digital Economy,
Department of Communications

Ian SQ

Ian Oppermann,

CEO SIRCA Technology


Download Australia 3.0 Gov Services Program 2014 

A30 Gov Stream Slides




A30 Gov Stream Slides_tmb


Program 28 and 29 August

Thu 28 Aug

Australia 3.0


Registration, Coffee


Empathise – feedback from interviewees and yammer

10:00 – 10:30am

Coffee break




Define – Focus of the session

Ideate Part I – presentation of 3 raw models which have developed

12:30 -1:30pm


1:30 – 3:30pm

Ideate Part II – hack, mash and stretch the models

3:30 – 4:00pm

Coffee break

4:00 – 5:30pm

Proto-type – rebuild the model(s)

5:30 – 6:00pm

Day 1 Wrap-up

Fri 29 Aug

Australia 3.0


Registration, Coffee


Australia 3.0 + MasterClass Plenary




Test – run scenarios against one model. 


Working Lunch (or join VIP lunch)


Australia 3.0 Plenary Wrap-up


NICTA TECH Showcase Official Opening


ACS Logo color  AIIA  Pearcey  CSIRO  Nicta

SIRCA logo   ASR logo.jpeg