My speech to the Geelong Communities accessing Technology Digital Inclusion Forum

City_of_Greater_Geelong_LogoLast year I signed up to be a Champion for the Infoxchange National Year of Digital Inclusion initiative, which seeks to raise awareness of the one-in-five Australian adults who are not yet online. As such I’ve been seeking out opportunities to discuss this issue, and seek out solutions.

Yesterday’s Communities accessing Technology Forum in Geelong was a great opportunity to so exactly that, as it bought together representatives from across local government and community services along with other interested parties to learn about and discuss digital inclusion. As the MC I was also asked to give a brief opening address, and I’ve pasted in the text below.

Communities accessing Technology Digital Inclusion Forum

The Importance of Digital Inclusion

I’ve been lucky to spend the last two decades studying the impact of technology on business, society and individuals. I’ve seen the pitfalls and the benefits, and I’d have to say the benefits easily outweigh the negatives.

To write about technology is to live somewhat in the future. But to quote the science fiction author William Gibson, the future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed.

I’d like to alter Gibson’s words today in the context of digital inclusion, to say that while the benefits of digital technology are here, those benefits are not evenly distributed.

We’ve long spoken of the concept of a digital divide, where society is classed into two classes of haves and have-nots – the information rich and information poor.

I’d also like to re-categorise that divide along the lines of the ‘access rich’ and the ‘access poor’, as being a participant in the digital age is about more than information. It is about access to services, on a 24/7 basis.

The divide can also be categorised from the perspective of skills. Without the skills necessary to act in a digital world, then the benefits of digital will also remain out of reach.

Today around one in five Australians do not have access to the benefits of digital services – that’s an estimated 1.1 million adults who have never accessed the internet. Throughout Australia there are pockets of society that the digital revolution has not yet touched – especially the age bracket of 65 and over, with 32 per cent not going online. For other groups the barriers are in terms of affordability, or access to infrastructure based on geography.

You’ll hear more stories later today on why this situation emerges, and about the factors that are creating these new classes of the access rich and the access poor. You’ll also be hearing success stories from those who are finding ways to tear down these barriers, and of programs that are designed to build on these successes to build a more digitally-inclusive society?

I’ve devoted a good part of the last few years exploring these issues, as a Champion for the Infoxchange National Year of Digital Inclusion initiative, and as an Ambassador for the Broadband for the Bush Alliance Forum. I’ve appreciated hearing stories firsthand from those who are living on the network’s fringe, such as how their kids’ education suffers when it rains, as the satellite signal can’t get through the rainclouds.

I spent last week in central west Queensland running a digital strategy workshop for the Queensland Government’s Department of Science, Information Technology and Innovation, working with small business owners to help them plot their own path forward.

The lesson that emerged for me was the importance of having skills resident in the local community. It struck me that the best solutions to the issues of digital inequality in society are those that are community led.

So I want to emphasise the importance of having community leaders who participate as role models, espousing their beliefs, and also enacting them. For a community to move forward it must be able to see the role models that are leading it forward, otherwise the concepts can be rejected.

But why is this important? Its my view that access to the digital world is becoming one of the key determinants of success in modern life, alongside other basic but essential services such as healthcare and education.

To live in this world without access to digital services is to live a life that is drifting farther and farther from mainstream society. The digital world provides access to a raft of services that are otherwise unattainable, in education, employment opportunities, and the the social fabric of society.

That list is constantly expanding, as more and more services migrate online. The current push by governments to a ‘digital first’ stance will only serve to highlight the disadvantages of not being online.

These changes on the whole will benefit society, but will these benefits be available to the whole of society?

Ultimately, that’s up to us.

9 technology trends to shake up your business – INTHEBLACK

biosensors-featureIt doesn’t seem so long ago that some of products and technologies that are commonplace today were still resident in the realm of science fiction.

The coupling of smaller and more powerful technology with human imagination is likely to have an even more profound impact on our lives in the immediate future, and you can read about nine transformative technologies in this article for CPA Australia’s INTHEBLACK website.

My speech from the ASCA Smart Communities Summit

2014-concept-1-gif_0Last week I gave the opening ‘catalyst’ address for the Australian Smart Communities Association’s inaugural Smart Communities Summit in Caloundra. A Few people have since asked for the speech and the notes it includes on what defines a smart community, so I am Catalyst speech.

The event itself was both well attended and well constructed, with presentations from leading thinkers and practitioners involved in creating smart communities in Australia and around the world.

We have already begun planning for the follow-up event in 2017 – hope to see you there!

Australian Smart Communities Summit starts next week

2014-concept-1-gif_0On Wednesday next week I’ll be taking the reigns as MC of the inaugural Australian Smart Communities Summit, happening in Caloundra on the Sunshine Coast.

While it might be too late to get yourself along, if you have an interest in smart communities/smart cities activity then please take a moment to fill out this survey, created by the ASCA and Tech Research Asia.

We are hoping this will be the start of an ongoing research program into the development of smart cities and communities in Australia.

Race Against the Machine – AIM Magazine

432_AIMMag_HomePageTile_350x350_0216_0I’ve been watching the impact of digital services on traditional businesses for what seems like a long now, but that doesn’t stop me from jumping at the chance to do it again. In the latest edition of the Australian Institute of Management magazine I get to talk about digital disruption and its impact on all sectors (not just taxis and accommodation).

It was also a great excuse to talk to one of my favourite thinkers on this subject, Vaporized! author Robert Tercek, who also made a great contribution to my own book A Faster Future some years ago.

The main point that I make in the article is that disruption is not a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when’ – and even if your own business has yet to face a disruptive competitor, their very existence is changing the expectations of the customers you service. You can check out a PDF of the magazine by clicking here – at least until they change the edition over (my article starts on page 21).

It used to be said (with thanks to Rita Mae Brown) that insanity was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. In the age of disruption, insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting the results to stay the same.

3D printing: The shape of things to come

3D PrinterAt first glance, 3D printing really does look to be the stuff of magic, with the ability to create solid objects seemingly out of thin air being one of the best examples of technology crossing the boundaries into sorcery. But despite its coolness, the 3D printing is yet to move beyond novelty value for the average consumer, in part due to the limited range of materials that can be printed at an affordable cost.

But as the cost of printers continues to fall, the range of printable materials will increase, and it is most  only a matter of years (not decades) before high quality metal parts can be printed by the average business. When that happens, the impact on the logistics industry is likely to be significant, as the old model of shipping and stocking parts gives way to manufacturing on demand.

For the moment however 3D printing is a developing opportunity, with unknown upside for those companies that dive in.

In this feature for CRN magazine I explore the growth in 3D printing from the perspective of the companies that are selling the machinery, and look at the next steps the industry will take on its road to mainstream adoption.


CMO – Navigating the future of omni-channel retailing

In the early days of ecommerce it made sense to treat online retailing as something new and different, and for that reason many traditional retailers started their online venture in a separate group – and sometimes under a separate brand. But as consumers have adapted to ecommerce, they are starting to question why the experience they receive through one channels is different to that which they receive through another. After all, it’s all still the same brand, isn’t it?

In this feature for CMO I look at how some retailers are working to bring their channels together. Could it be that the current discussion around omni-channel retail is really just a transition to a more unified experience – one that might be better described as uni-channel?

Back to the Future reminds us to be careful what we wish for

BTTFWhen it comes to embracing new technologies, sometimes what seems like a great idea can have unintended negative consequences. Just ask all of the small business owners that used to make money from processing your rolls of holiday snaps on 35mm film …

Last weekend I had the pleasure of delivering a presentation on change and technology to a group of tyre dealers, on behalf of local Cooper Tires distributor Exclusive Tyres (yes, I never realised there was two different spellings either). As the presentation took place in the week of Back to the Future Day (when Marty and Doc travelled to 21 October 2015) , it seemed fitting to use the film as a starting point for the presentation, to point out the dangers of trying to predict the future.

One of the most memorable predictions that the film made was that skateboards would hover. The idea of a hoverboard captured popular imagination, and even led local hiphop artist Seth Sentry to ask ‘where’s my hoverboard?’ in his song ‘Dear Science‘. He definitely wasn’t alone in asking that question – most of the people in the audience conceded they’d buy one if they were on the market.

But great innovations like hover technology can have unintended consequences. If you can make a skateboard hover, then why not a car? And what don’t hoverboards have that skateboards have? Wheels.

So if you can make a hoverboard without wheels, it stands to reason that you can make a hovercar without wheels.

That’s not so good for anyone who sells tyres for a living.

Its anyone’s guess as to when we will see commercial hoverboards, but this Canadian inventor is one of many working hard to bring that dream to reality. It is a vision that perhaps should give tyre sellers cause to pause and think about their future.

SmartCompany – Australia’s 10 most influential people in tech

Peter BraddIt’s never easy trying to determine who the most influential people are in Australia’s IT industry, but that doesn’t seem to stop me doing so year after year. There can be little denying that this year’s list of Australia’s 10 most influential people in tech for SmartCompany are people whom others listen to. Whether they are the most influential – well, I look forward to seeing your feedback

The Australian – Industry must invest in skills or fall prey to disruption

iStock_000014006813MediumFor a while now I’ve been chairing meetings of senior CIOs around Australia, with skills a central point of discussion – more specifically, the difficult that many are finding in recruiting the skills they need to manage a modern IT function and engage strategically within their organisation. While there are no easy solutions to the skills shortage, it also seems no one else is as motivated or well-positioned to fix the problem as the people who are experiencing it first hand … as I discuss in this piece for The Australian/Business Spectator.