The CSIRO launched the Digital Productivity and Services Flagship this week at an event in Sydney, with the aim of helping Australia improve productivity, particularly in the services sector.
According to the CSIRO, Australia’s productivity has declined in recent years despite the country, in the majority, weathering the GFC. In order to deal with this decline, the organisation’s research Flagship will focus on the services sector, which the CSIRO claims provides around 80 percent of the country’s GDP.
Senator Stephen Conroy, the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, officially launched the research Flagship, stating that the opportunities a digital economy presents are endless. “We need to act to make sure Australia is best placed to capitalise on these opportunities.” Conroy also said that Australia needs to be at the forefront of digital innovation, and we must think of digital innovation not just within the IT industry, but as being relevant to every industry.
Director of the Flagship Dr Ian Oppermann echoed these thoughts, stating “The eyes of the world are on us.” He welcomed a range of distinguished guests to the launch, including Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web and director of the World Wide Web Consortium- W3C. In his keynote speech, littered with humour and stories about the beginnings of the World Wide Web, Berners-Lee addressed the audience with, instead of ‘Ladies and Gentlemen’, “Geeks, connected people and not connected people.”
Berners-Lee discussed the importance and value of data as the use of the internet increases, saying that “as more data gets produced, the value of data goes up.” He also mentioned that it was a “fascinating time” to be in Australia as more people get connected through the National Broadband Network.
Inevitably, the security of data was also discussed, with Berners-Lee stating that it worries him when Governments want to take away access or block pages on the web as, “It’s important for a democracy to have access to the internet.”
This thought echoed the opening remarks from CSIRO CEO Megan Clark, who stated that while many have been excluded from innovation in the past due to poverty, gender etc., the possibilities of the digital world are endless. “That has to change the playing field,” she said.
The further implications of the Flagship research were then discussed by a panel that included Berners-Lee, Dr Nicholas Gruen, CEO of Lateral Economics, Dr Terry Cutler, an industry consultant, Professor Mary O’Kane, NSW chief scientist, and Oppermann, with the panel facilitated by Andrew Jaspan, co-founder of The Conversation.
The panel discussed the possibilities that the Flagship might offer, including improving Australia’s business innovation, looking at the obstacles and assistance that the Government and private business might provide and how the Flagship’s research might improve every Australian’s access to services.
This $40 million research initiative aims to create $4 billion per annum in added value for the economy.