The Australian Computer Society (ACS) urges the political parties to make digital economy issues an important part of the debate and discussion in the current election campaign.
We live in a digital world where information and communications technology (ICT) sits at the heart of most of the products and services we now consume, and digital technologies are critical drivers of productivity growth, innovation, and higher standards of living. Successful economies therefore need Governments that place a high priority on developing and sustaining a digital eco-system that ensures an adequate supply of ICT skills, a digitally-literate workforce, and ongoing collaboration between academia, industry, government and the community.
For Queensland, a focus on digital economy issues is critical. With the economy undergoing significant change, particularly as the resources sector moves from the construction phase to the production phase, we need to create new industries, new competitive advantage, and new opportunities for employment and growth. Digital technologies provide the essential foundation stone on which this growth will be delivered.
ACS urges the next Queensland Government to have as its goal to make Queensland the leading digital economy in our nation.
To achieve this, the ACS recommends a focus on four key issues.
1 Digital Economy Ministry & Digital Ministerial Advisory Council
To help build a world-leading digital economy, ACS calls on the incoming Queensland Government to establish a dedicated Digital Economy Ministry headed by a Cabinet Minister. Further, to assist that Minister in this role, the Government should establish a Digital Ministerial Advisory Council. The Council would provide the Minister with access to the relevant expertise, experience and insights from those in industry, academia, the education and training sector and the community sector.
ACS suggests the remit of the Council be to provide advice on issues and initiatives related to:
· the demand and supply for appropriate ICT skills;
· digital literacy of the workforce generally, but particularly Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and Not-for-Profits (NFPs); and
· workforce development planning with a particular focus on researching the ICT skills and qualifications Queensland is likely to need in the next 5-10 years given the “disruption” being created by rapidly-advancing technologies.
· assisting key Queensland industries to become more competitive in a digital economy.
Membership of the Council should include representatives from the ICT industry, the ACS, broader employer representative groups, the education sector and relevant community groups.
2 Digital Skills
To help ensure Queensland has an adequate supply of the skilled ICT professionals, an incoming Government needs to ensure there is a stronger emphasis on learning and using digital technologies in the education system.
Specifically ACS recommends:
· Including a Digital Technologies subject as a mandatory element of primary and secondary school curriculum;
· working with VET providers to encourage a greater focus on preparing students for a rapidly-changing job market disrupted by digital technologies. This, in part, means ensuring all students are required to attain some minimum level of ICT skills and competencies; and
· establishing a process for Government, industry, employer and education stakeholders to work more collaboratively to help ensure ICT students (tertiary and VET) have greater exposure to work-integrated learning opportunities (eg internships). The objective is to make graduates more work-ready by ensuring they possess the important ‘soft skills’ like project management, problem solving, stakeholder management, and strategic and creative thinking.
3 Digital Literacy of Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs)
Queensland has approximately 410,000 small businesses, representing over 96% of businesses State-wide, and employing approximately 50% of all private sector workers. Given SMEs represent the vast majority of businesses in the economy, driving higher growth requires Governments to create an environment where these businesses can thrive. In today’s world that means they must have certain minimum levels of digital competence and literacy.
However the findings of a PayPal Research project in 2013 on small business digital literacy indicates 3 in 5 SMEs claim low levels of digital literacy are preventing them from running their business more efficiently, and 4 in 5 suggest there should be more help and guidance to assist them embrace the digital economy.
To address this issue, the ACS recommends an incoming Queensland Government move beyond the usual education and awareness type campaigns Governments have typically pursued. ACS instead suggests a more “hands on” program which firstly works with individual businesses to benchmark their digital literacy and identify their specific areas of weakness and then, based on the benchmarking results, help broker relationships between the businesses and relevant “best in breed” ICT suppliers and ICT professionals.
4 Digital Cities
ACS recommends that to help promote the emergence of a truly digital economy and to also create heightened interest and expectation in the community about the benefits of digital technologies, an incoming Queensland Government commit to building one or more digital cities in Queensland by 2020. A digital city deploys ICT technology deeply and extensively to generate significant community benefit and amenity through for example:
· using physical infrastructure (eg roads, built environment) more efficiently and to support stronger and healthier economic, social, cultural development;
· improving learning, adaptability and innovation;
· improving community ability to respond more effectively to changing circumstances;
· allowing citizens to engage more effectively in governance and decision-making through open innovation processes and e-participation; and
· promoting a higher concentration of the creative industries, supported by strong knowledge and social networks and voluntary organisations in a low-crime setting.
The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) – which is the world's largest association of technical professionals with more than 400,000 members – defines Digital or Smart Cities as:
"A smart city brings together technology, government and society to enable the following characteristics: smart cities, a smart economy, smart mobility, a smart environment, smart people, smart living, smart governance.”
About the Australian Computer Society (ACS)
The Australian Computer Society (ACS) is Australia’s peak body for ICT professionals with around 22,000 members nationally. A core function of the ACS is the assessment and accreditation of its members as Certified Technologists or Certified Professionals. ACS also conducts research-based advocacy on behalf of members on public policy issues.
For more information about the ACS, please see www.acs.org.au.
Enquiries to Dr Nick Tate, Chair, Queensland Branch of ACS – 0412 674010