Malcolm Turnbull


Broadband is the key infrastructure for the 21st century

9:33AM | Wednesday, 30 September

 Earlier this month, the US Broadband Opportunity Council declared that broadband is “taking its place alongside water, sewer and electricity as essential infrastructure for communities”.   Descriptors like “very fast” (Australia), “superfast” (UK), “ultra-fast” (New Zealand) or “ultra-high speed” (Singapore) reinforce the message that speed is an essential component of good broadband.   But what would a genuinely 21st century broadband infrastructure look like? And can the National Broadband Network (NBN) under the stewardship of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull fit the bill?   High bar Around the world there are broadband projects that give us a taste of what 21st century broadband might look like. One is Google Fiber, which promises “endless possibilities” along with 1 gigabit per second (Gbps) download and upload speeds in three American cities.   In comparison, the ADSL2+ broadband serving more than 5 million Australian households today has a maximum download speed of about 20 megabits per second (Mbps) and upload of 8Mbps. However, real-world speeds are typically significantly lower.   Today’s fastest NBN plans offer 100Mbps download and 40 Mbps upload, although NBN Co’s original fibre-to-the-premises approach could match Google Fiber’s gigabit speeds.   Google has plans to expand Google Fiber to more cities in the US, making it one of the most high profile private sector broadband initiatives globally. But it is far from the only one.   In cities around the world, many companies are building new broadband networks that offer symmetrical gigabit speeds (1,000Mbps downloads and uploads) and more competitive pricing than incumbent broadband providers.   In the US, more than 100 cities have joined the Next Century Cities alliance, sharing expertise to bring “fast, reliable, and affordable Internet – at globally competitive speeds” to their communities.   A successful example of this approach is in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where the community-owned electric utility company built and operates a fibre network connecting every home and business.   In addition to offering symmetrical gigabit broadband, the network has improved the reliability, resiliency and responsiveness of Chattanooga’s electrical services. It also provides a platform for economic development that drives growth and innovation in the city.   The people of rural Lancashire in England were tired of waiting for better broadband, so they took matters into their own hands. They raised money from the community, and volunteers learned how to install fibre.   Their broadband for the Rural North (B4RN) project now delivers gigabit symmetrical broadband to more than 1,000 households.   Singapore’s Next Generation Nationwide Broadband Network connects all Singaporean homes and businesses to an open access fibre network, meaning that any qualified provider can deliver services using the network. Many ISPs now offer symmetrical gigabit connectivity over this national network, with plans to offer even faster speeds in future.   These initiatives serve different constituencies in different ways, with three very important commonalities. Each project has built, or is building, a new fibre-optical network that connects directly to homes and other premises. Each has developed a business model that allows customers unlimited symmetrical access at the fastest possible speeds.   Speeds can also be increased in future by upgrading networking equipment, allowing for faster data transfer over the fibre. Additionally, these fast, unlimited internet services are offered at a reasonable price, typically less than A$100 per month.   By demonstrating what is possible, these projects are likely to shape expectations of what fixed-line broadband networks can deliver in future. The willingness of local communities, municipal and national governments and private sector organisations to invest in new fibre networks demonstrates that there are business models that work, today.   Bringing it home Opportunities for using broadband to deliver services to citizens in innovative, economical and convenient ways are well understood. Research also suggests that increased uptake of broadband technologies results in economic growth, providing strong rationale for public investment in broadband infrastructure.   However, when he was Minister for Communications, Malcolm Turnbull instructed the National Broadband Network company (nbn) to meet short-term needs by incorporating existing copper and HFC networks into a multi-technology mix network.   Research for the government’s NBN Panel of Experts concluded that Australians would not need very fast broadband service in the immediate future.   But if broadband is indeed becoming as essential as roads, water and electricity, the current patchwork approach will be insufficient to enable the innovation, productivity and socio-economic activities already possible on the networks described above.   The approaches discussed above show that investment in broadband infrastructure can deliver uniform, affordable, and very high quality service. New models provide services without limits or constraints, enabling innovation and experimentation with the possibility of increasing network capacity to meet demands for services that have yet to be invented.   Malcolm Turnbull has an opportunity to build world class broadband infrastructure in Australia AAP   Embracing broadband A few days after taking office, Prime Minister Turnbull announced “a 21st Century Government and a ministry for the future”. He called for Australia to become more competitive, more innovative and more productive. He called for increased efficiency in service delivery, and spoke of integration across all levels of government to ensure the prosperity of Australian cities.   He did not mention the National Broadband Network, but he would understand the important role that broadband can play in facilitating his objectives and know that there is enormous opportunity for his government to explore the potential of 21st century broadband.   A good first step would be to articulate the ways that broadband underpins innovation, productivity and integration across his ministries and across the Australian economy, in cities and in rural and remote regions.   With a clear set of outcomes in mind, the government may then reconsider its commitment to a plan that constrains and limits the capacity of the NBN, and may even hinder Australia’s future prosperity.   Catherine Middleton, Professor, Ted Rogers School of Management, Ryerson University This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Startup nation: the rhetoric and the reality

9:24AM | Tuesday, 29 September

 If recent statements from both the government and opposition are any guide, then entrepreneurship may be a key battleground for the next federal election. For example, Australian’s youngest federal Assistant Minister for Innovation Wyatt Roy has flagged an interest in fostering growth in the number of entrepreneurial startups across Australia. He apparently has the backing of the new Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull.   Roy’s focus, based on his comments so far, appears to be on wooing back to Australia successful entrepreneurs who have moved to California’s Silicon Valley. He has flagged the idea of issuing special visas for people in “innovation industries”, which appear to be largely in the field of software and information technology.   Not to be outdone, opposition leader Bill Shorten has announced the idea of offering special visas to attract up to 2,000 entrepreneurs willing to start up new businesses in Australia. In addition, a further 2,000 international students would be granted a further year on their study visas if they can demonstrate they have a “credible startup idea” upon graduation.   While I would be the first to welcome a competition between the major political parties over the fostering of more entrepreneurship and innovation, it is important to put these proposals into context and separate the rhetoric from the reality.   Is investment in startups good policy? Professor Scott Shane, of Case Western Reserve University, is a notable academic in the field of entrepreneurship. In a 2008 report to the World Economic Forum he famously argued that encouraging more people to become entrepreneurs is bad public policy.   Shane’s argument was based on the recognition that the number of new business startups generated is a poor metric. As he states in his paper: Encouraging startups in general is lousy public policy because we have no evidence that people create too few or the wrong businesses in the absence of government intervention, and a lot of evidence that these policies lead people to start marginal businesses that are likely to fail, have little economic impact, and generate little employment.   This suggests it is not the number of new business startups that matters but the quality of these businesses. Shane also notes that the investment of money and time in the creation of a new business venture is a worse investment than if these resources were put into the expansion of an average existing business.   He also argues that the creation of new jobs among a cohort of new businesses occurs mostly in the first year or so, and that as that same cohort of firms age, more jobs are lost due to companies ceasing to trade than from those that grow. Further, the pay and conditions in most startups is poorer than in established firms.   Gazelles versus Muppets Politicians' interest in entrepreneurship and startups is driven by the assumption that such firms will provide jobs and become an engine of growth. This is a belief that is shared by governments around the world. However, the scepticism of Shane is shared by others such as Paul Nightingale and Alex Coad from the University of Sussex.   In a 2013 study published in the journal Industrial and Corporate Change, they questioned the assumption that entrepreneurial activity was a major driving force of the economy.   Nightingale and Coad’s view was based on the relative paucity of hard evidence validating rhetoric surrounding entrepreneurial startups as the driver of economic growth and job creation. Part of the problem is the lack of reliable data, and the tendency for a handful of highly successful companies to skew the statistics.   One of the issues here is that much of the growth and job creation is generated by a very small number of high growth young firms generally referred to as “Gazelles”. Such a business is younger than five years, and has experienced an annual average rate of growth of more than 20% over a consecutive three-year period. Such firms are rare. For example, the OECD suggests that they represent less than 1% of all firms by employment and less than 2% by turnover.   If they survive their first three to five years and successfully grow into larger businesses, they contribute significantly to employment and economic growth. They are distinguished from the majority of small to medium firms that choose not to grow, or to grow more modestly. Such firms are dismissed by Nightingale and Coad as “Muppets”.   However, unlike the Muppets, the Gazelle firms are also highly risky. This is because the startup phase is relatively easy, but the scale up or growth phase is very difficult. There is no “magic sauce” that can be applied to them to guarantee their success. From a policy perspective trying to build economic and employment growth by seeking to pick winners is fraught with risk.   Don’t try to replicate Silicon Valley Roy’s apparent fascination with attracting Silicon Valley entrepreneurs to Australia is also open to challenge. For example, Professor Daniel Isenberg, from Babson College, suggests that government policy should avoid trying to replicate Silicon Valley. The conditions that created that well known hub of entrepreneurial activity are unique to that area.   Instead, governments should focus on building on local conditions that favour the “Gazelles” and other high growth firms emerging from existing industries. Many of these are to be found in the low- to mid-tech sectors and, as such, all the attention should not be directed at high-tech or information technology ventures.   In 2010 the OECD issued a report on high-growth firms and what governments might do to facilitate them. This report recommended policy to improve the overall conditions for startups and small firms through reforms of competition policy, regulation and infrastructure.   It also suggested more development of training and management skills for the people running such firms, as well as making it easier for such companies to access finance and credit. It also highlighted the importance of intellectual property.   Finally, there were recommendations for assistance in helping such firms gain access to international markets by plugging into global supply chains, as well as encouraging innovation and entrepreneurial attitudes.   Does Australia need more startup activity? In assessing the need for more entrepreneurial startup activity in Australia, it is important to note that it is already very easy to start a new business in this country. According to the World Bank Australia ranks 7th out of 143 nations as the easiest place to startup a business, with New Zealand ranking number one.   A study published this year by the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the Department of Industry and Science suggests that Australia already has a high rate of new business creation. However, this has been declining and the rate of employment generated per startup is relatively low compared with other advanced economies.   This study points to the significant contribution of a relatively small proportion of “Gazelle” firms to the overall job creation in the economy. Over the time period 2001 to 2013 such firms employed around 15% of the total workforce but contributed about 40% of all new job creation.   This research highlights the importance of a small number of high-growth “Gazelles” and that such firms are found not just in high-tech or software, but across all industries. A feature of such firms is that they are innovative and can generate above average levels of profit, which are essential ingredients for successful growth.   So Australia doesn’t need more startup activity in total terms. But it does need more startups that are potentially scalable into larger firms. Yet the challenge for policy makers is how to identify the winners. Tim Mazzarol, Winthrop Professor, Entrepreneurship, Innovation, Marketing and Strategy , University of Western Australia This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

To change our economy we need to change our thinking

9:21AM | Tuesday, 29 September

 It’s not surprising that new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s appointment has been well received by the startup community. When he talks about the Australia of the future being agile, innovative and creative, he is speaking their language.   There is only one question. How do we get there?   There are at least a few countries in the world that could be characterised as agile, innovative and creative. Among them: the USA, Singapore and Estonia. What could we learn from them?   The United States has led the digital revolution. It started in Silicon Valley. There, Stanford and other universities provided a skilled STEM research base, the industry contributed venture capital and business expertise, and the government added steady and sustainable funding to the mix.   In America, creativity, innovation and agility are deeply ingrained in society. The maker movement, exemplified by the global phenomenon of Maker Faires, started in California. Creativity is taught from the youngest age through initiatives such as City X, born in Wisconsin.   Singapore is one of the most advanced digital economies and benefits heavily from the commitment of its government. Singapore wants to become the world’s first “smart nation”. The government has established institutions that focus on creating a vibrant startup ecosystem. Generous funding of startups and an attractive taxation system are “icing on the cake” that the government serves.   Singaporeans want to be smart and well educated. The perception that knowledge can be the most valued resource of the country has been consistent over the 50 years of its existence.   Estonia is a young economy, moving fast in the digital space. Lack of legacy systems means that Estonians can quickly introduce digital solutions. There is no need to think about maintaining previous ones - there aren’t any. It’s an inventor’s heaven.   A strong push for STEM education has always been present in Estonia’s educational system. This, married with entrepreneurial spirit triggered when independence was restored in 1991, created a perfect storm. And it would not have been possible without the strong support of the government.   In the US, Singapore and Estonia, it is all about government support, education and the right innovation culture.   Governments need to play a very active role. A robust ecosystem, like Silicon Valley, can be developed when a government is strategically focused. The US government is now switching to a supportive role, with the digital economy becoming very mature.   The government of Singapore behaves more like a startup, with a clear vision, defined investment and incentive strategy. And Estonia, the youngest economy of the pack, is in a seeding phase, looking to implement and create an entrepreneurial ecosystem.   Education is a top priority. The decentralised model in the US has enabled grassroots movements resulting in great creative talent. The structured model in Singapore produces highly skilled and technically capable citizens. Estonia has traditionally focused on STEM skills and aims to digitise all learning experiences by 2020.   Be bold While policies and education are important, innovation culture eats them for breakfast. Obama brings inventors to the White House. Singapore’s Lee Hsien Loong uses Facebook and Google Drive to share and discuss C++ code he wrote years ago. Estonian President Toomas Ilves reminds everyone that this young country is behind such disruptive technologies as Skype.   Estonians are bold, curious and not afraid of experimenting. Singaporeans are rigorous, ambitious and use their skills wisely. Americans are proud, entrepreneurial and global in their actions. They are all explorers of the digital economy in their own ways.   Governments that foster innovation are more about how they behave than their structure. In this case “talking the talk” is almost as important as walking it - to build the right innovation culture.   Turnbull’s beliefs, values and assumptions, born of his business experience, will be vital to keep innovation and entrepreneurship on the agenda while developing the ecosystem in Australia.   A well-designed educational system is crucial. There has to be a strong focus on developing STEM skills, while remembering that creative skills are just as important. We need to foster curious, creative and entrepreneurial minds. And we need to remember that education never ends: lifelong learning and digital literacy skills are key to a successful digital economy.   Innovation, creativity and agility need to be cherished and celebrated. Just like Obama praises creative kids in his tweets, we hope to see Turnbull continuously recognise individuals and organisations that exhibit entrepreneurial traits. And just like other successful economies, we need to create an environment where successful startups stay here.   Australians need to be bold and aspire to have the strongest and fastest-moving digital economy in the world. There is no reason to doubt it is possible.   If the first vision is not right, we can pivot. Just like any startup would. Marek Kowalkiewicz, Professor and PwC Chair in Digital Economy, Queensland University of Technology This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

The role of science and innovation in a 21st century government

9:13AM | Monday, 28 September

  Australia’s new prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, has announced what he calls a “21st-century government”. This article is part of The Conversation’s series focusing on what such a government should look like. Change is in the air. According to our new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, his will be a 21st century government. But what does this entail? And what is the role of science and innovation in such a government?   The challenge for a genuinely 21st century Australian government is how to wrap its arms around the future in such a way that it improves Australia’s ability to capitalise on its research capacity and create new jobs, industries and opportunities for the coming century.   A 21st century ministry The expanded Industry, Innovation and Science portfolio will now encompass digital technology and engineering, which together comprise the engine that has driven explosive growth in Silicon Valley, Israel and other forward-looking places.   We need to invest broadly in science research to feed the technology and engineering engine. But how do we bridge the funding “valley of death” between research and industry, and convert our excellent research outcomes into proven technologies?   We have companies aplenty that can pick up and commercialise proven technologies, but they are rightly cautious about licensing the rights to research outcomes. To address this problem, the US government directly invests nearly ten times more than we do as a percentage of GDP to fund business feasibility studies intended to convert research outcomes into proven technologies.   To drive our innovation agenda harder, a 21st century government could consider grants and development contracts specifically to support the translation of research outcomes into proven technologies.   Private sector investment into Australian start-up companies is lacking. In the US and Israel, more than 10% of GDP derives from venture-capital backed companies. In Australia it is 0.2%.   If we could increase the contribution to the economy by these companies from 0.2% to, say, 2%, then the benefits would be significant. To do so we will need to encourage new domestic and international sources of private funding, teach skills in technology assessment, and give further consideration to the rules around employee stock options and crowd-sourced funding.   Thinking big At the same time, the fresh line-up of political leaders can help advance the national psyche beyond a state of gloom. They can acknowledge the fantastic benefits innovation has already brought to established industries.   Banking and resources, for example, have invested heavily in innovation to improve efficiency, and the largest iron mining companies in Australia continue to operate with positive operating margins despite depressed international prices.   Science and technology advances operate across broad sectors of the economy, contributing to accelerated growth in major export industries such as agriculture. Improvements to farm machinery and practices will make our farming more efficient, while adoption of digital technology to track our goods from field to retail outlet will provide the proof of origin that will allow our exporters to charge premium prices.   To the extent that the government will invest in new programs to support innovation, they should be carefully conceived, long term and national in scope, and large in scale. At the same time, existing programs could be consolidated to focus on those that have the most impact.   Sink or swim I sometimes hear criticism of the Australian workforce, but I strongly disagree with that criticism. I have employed many engineers and scientists in the US and in Australia, and the Australian staff have been every bit as talented and dedicated as their US counterparts.   Unfortunately, unlike in the US, a substantial fraction of our creative workforce is locked out of commercial development activities because of the lack of mobility between university and industry jobs.   A 21st century government could help by adopting ratings systems that measure and reward engagement between universities and industry, and value time spent by research staff working in industry as much as they value publications and citations.   Of course, like footballers, innovators thrive when the rules of the game are clear and consistently applied. Industry is as one with government in recognising the importance of strong regulations. What is needed in most industries is a lead regulator to coordinate the regulatory oversight.   This approach does not replace the expertise of the various regulators, it just coordinates them. The key is for regulations to enable rather than stifle innovation while ensuring that community concerns and safety requirements are properly addressed.   We are already operating in an era of digital disruption. Science and technology will further dominate our future as we build a world ever more like those imagined by science fiction. In this world, machines offer their services to each other, buy and sell products and exchange information in real time. Manufacturing and service provision will be highly flexible and products will be individualised to customer needs.   Our industries must be agile and ready to transform, so that they will add value in a complex global supply chain, thereby creating new wealth that will be invested in services, health and other industries, with net creation of jobs.   The only thing we know for sure is that the next ten years will change more rapidly than the past ten years. I am confident that as the newly appointed Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Christopher Pyne, recognises the urgency to embrace these changes and will introduce policies and practices to capture the opportunities in what is proving to be a sink or swim world. The latter is preferable. Alan Finkel, Chancellor, Monash University This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Shorten takes on Turnbull to stake out startup “path to the future”

9:37AM | Thursday, 24 September

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has announced a “second wave” of policies that Labor will be taking to the election with the aim of making Australia a “startup nation”.   The $17.8 million policy package includes efforts to encourage young Australians to enter the startup world, visas to entice international entrepreneurs to set up shop here, and ways to bring innovation to government decision-making.   Shorten told StartupSmart it’s all about making sure Australia is competitive in the global race to “capture the jobs of the future”.   “Over the next two decades if we get our startup policies right, there’s another half a million jobs,” Shorten says.   “We’re in a race with the rest of the world for jobs and growth, for quality growth and fairness.   “Labor’s plan for securing jobs involves capital, skills, platform infrastructure, collaboration, working with government and culture.   “Startups manifest a lot of these things; they’re indices of success if the policies are in the right direction.”   Startups have recently been placed at the forefront of Australian politics with new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull placing a strong emphasis on innovation and new technologies in both his first acceptance speech and subsequent cabinet reshuffle.   The competition to win over the Australian startup community has begun, with Shorten saying the public should looks towards the government’s history with things like the NBN, rather than the startup rhetoric.   “The Liberal party can talk about things, but you’ve got to look at their record,” Shorten says.   “We’ve been in it for two years.”   Shorten announced the raft of new policies at a press conference at Tank Stream Labs in Sydney today.   The first wave of Labor policies regarding innovation came in Shorten’s 2015 budget reply, where he focused mostly on STEM education. The policies included emphasis on coding in schools, scholarships for STEM teachers, as well as a $500 million Smart Investment Fund.   Shorten says the new host of reforms that Labor will be bringing to next year’s election are all about giving power to entrepreneurial individuals.   “I’m a big believer in empowerment,” he says.   “Empowered individuals in control of their lives create quality growth and fair communities are the best seed-bed for innovation.”   HECS-style loans for young entrepreneurs   The flagship reform of the “second wave” is the introduction of income-contingent loans for final year university students or recent graduates looking to establish a startup in an accelerator or incubator.   The ‘Startup Year’ involves a HECS-style loan of up to $10,000 for 2000 students or graduates each year, with the aim of encouraging more educated young Australians to move directly into the tech sector.   To be eligible for the Startup Year, young entrepreneurs would have to be participating in an “accredited program” such as a university or external accelerator.   Recipients would start paying back the loan in instalments once they are earning $54,000 annually.   “If you look at the ages of successful startup businesses, it’s when people are testing ideas, they’ve been learning and have a lot of imagination that the system hasn’t beaten out of them yet,” Shorten says.   Sebastien Eckersley-Maslin, the CEO of accelerator BlueChilli, says he thinks this is a “good initiative”, but only if the right controls are put in place.   “I’m not normally one to advocate for tight controls in this area, but this needs to have strict controls around it,” Eckersley-Maslin says. “It could potentially be exploited.”   “The idea of having the funds deployed through registered training or accredited providers is the right way to go about it, or else you’ll just be handing out $10,000 so people can extend their Schoolies.”   The risks associated with this scheme are low, Shorten says, with a lot of requirements to be put in place.   “That’s where the 43 universities come into being,” he says. “It’s very low risk, with a high reward.   “It’s a good investment.”   AngelCube founder Adrian Stone says fundamentally he supports this new proposed policy.   “It’s definitely innovative thinking, and it’s great that they’re looking at unemployed graduates,” Stone says.   “I support it, with a few tweaks.”   The $10,000 loan might also be not enough to convince graduates to forgo a stable job in favour of operating a startup, Eckersley-Maslin says.   “Entrepreneurs will do it anyway, and $10,000 is unfortunately not enough to make an impact on someone moving across, but it will support people who are doing it,” he says.   “It’ll create more bodies and groups that’ll be able to support entrepreneurs and give them somewhere to deploy money. Just like HECS helps higher education bodies, this will help startup-based accelerators and incubators.”   Bringing international talent to Australia   The reform package also includes two new visa categories aimed at global entrepreneurs and graduating international students.   The Startup Entrepreneurial Visa is aimed at 2000 entrepreneurs from around the world looking to set up shop in Australia. Labor says it’ll be targeted at individuals with access to around $200,000 which can then be invested in a startup venture in Australia.   The Global Startup Entrepreneurial Visa will go to 2000 international exchange graduates, allowing them to stay in Australia for one year to establish a business.   “We’re going to open the doors to 2000 of the brightest people in the world to have the chance to have a visa in Australia and back in their ideas,” Shorten says.   “Quite often what happens is when they finish their degree they head back to their home country. We want to encourage some of them to stay in Australia and back in their idea.”   Innovation competitions   Also included in the package is the creation of an online portal for government agencies to upload challenges for the public to solve.   Along the same lines as in the US, Shortens says the AusGoV Challenge Platform is a 21st century version of something that has taken place since the 18th century.   Labor is committing spending $5 million to establish a trial of the platform, which will run competitions between ten to 12 agencies seeking to identify “new approaches to utilising data, technology and analytics to solve their policy and management challenges”.   The opposition has also vowed to support pre-commercial collaboration with startups and SMEs by giving them a “food in the door” with procurement tenders.   This funding will be at two levels, with the first phase providing a $100,000 grant for research and development and the second giving up to $1 million for proof-of-concept. Overall this reform will cost $5 million.   The last part of the package is the establishment of the Innovation Investment Partnership, which aims to bring together VC, superannuation funds and startup stakeholders in one place.   “Innovation doesn’t wait for elections”     With Malcolm Turnbull leading the government’s new focus on startups and innovation, Labor are striving to differentiate themselves and prove their credentials in this area as it shapes up to be a major battleground at the 2016 federal election.   Labor has identified one area where they believe they can land some blows, the NBN.   “Malcolm Turnbull has been talking about a digital future but for two years he has been responsible for rolling out the backbone of that digital future – the National Broadband Network,” the Labor policy paper says.   “The NBN has been rolling out more slowly than Malcolm Turnbull promised and it will now cost much more than Malcolm Turnbull promised.”   Shorten adds that there’ll be more policy announcements in this area to come.   “We’ll have more to say about research and more to say about taxation, but these are great ideas,” he says.   “By all means let’s have a debate about the best path to the future.”   New minister for industry, innovation and science Christopher Pyne issued a press release today criticizing Labor’s new policy announcement.   “The Turnbull government wants to encourage ideas for greater innovation and entrepreneurship, but they need to be good ideas,” Pyne says.   “Innovation has to be more than a political buzzword; it’s the only option for our economy if we are to maintain our current standard of living.   “While Labor appears to have a sudden newfound desire to promote innovation in Australia, a better start would be for them to support the China Free Trade Agreement.”   Startup-advocate and Labor MP Ed Husic says he’s willing to work with the other side on these policies if they are, saying “innovation doesn’t wait for elections”.   For the Australian startup community, the positive thing seems to be that both the government and the opposition are throwing their full support behind innovation and new technologies, even if hopes for bipartisanship may not eventuate.   “Both major parties are increasingly making innovation a key priority area in order to ensure Australia remains competitive and prosperous,” StartupAUS CEO Peter Bradd says.   “Startups will benefit from this increased attention, but the economy as a whole will be the real winner.”   Eckersley-Maslin agrees.   “It’s awesome we have bipartisan support on startups and innovation,” he says.   “The future is bright for entrepreneurs in this country, and it needs to be.”   Want to grow your business with Instagram? StartupSmart School can help.

Technology will play a starring role in Australia’s future story

9:53AM | Thursday, 24 September

The new Turnbull government, which admirably seems to take a genuine interest in science and technology, has arrived just in time: Australia can no longer afford to not fully engage with new technologies. But which ones should it embrace? What will be their impact on our society and economy? And what can actually be done to better situate Australia?   Such questions were part of the motivation for the report published by the Australian Council of Learned Academies (ACOLA) and launched today by Professor Ian Chubb at the Australian Academy of Science in Canberra.   The report, Technology and Australia’s Future, is the result of nearly three years' work, with input from all four learned academies. It has many findings that are worthy of discussion and which can help guide Australia’s technological future.   But behind these findings is a deeper story.   A narrative for Australia   In the preface to the report, former Chief Scientist Robin Batterham declared that “at last” this was “a narrative for Australia”.   Like all good stories, this narrative is rich and complex. It shows our dependence upon the past and how lessons learned long ago need to be learned afresh by each generation.   Many of the findings in the report are not really new, but seem to be regularly forgotten. For example, technological change has been the major driver of economic growth since the late 1950s. If Australia wants economic growth, it will not achieve this by cost-cutting. Rather, it needs to position itself in the lead technologically.   We also found many recurring concerns. For example, new technologies always bring with them a fear of job losses. Indeed, it is true that as technology changes, some old jobs become obsolete and new ones arise in their stead. But the somewhat hysterical concerns of late regarding robots taking all the jobs are not based on history, fact or logic.   We also found some recurring patterns in the factors that affect industry uptake of new technologies. Time and again there have been examples of “technological inertia”, whereby parts of society (whether capital or labor) that are heavily vested (or invested) with current technologies delay the introduction of new technologies.   Yet, when the technologies have been introduced, they have led to better outcomes for society. The lesson here is to remove the friction and inertia to enable a more agile and adaptive response.   Embrace the uncertainty   One of the biggest surprises we encountered was the stubborn resistance to the inherent unpredictability of technology.   Some technological developments might be predictable, such as Gordon Moore’s famous “law”. But Moore’s law did not help anyone predict the rise of Uber, for example.   When looked at holistically, this lack of predictability is hardly surprising. Technology changes through a complex process of evolution. As in biology, technologies are combined in different ways. And crucially, the technologies that survive depend upon the environment, which is itself hard to predict.   The unpredictable, chaotic, evolutionary and stochastic nature of new technology should not be viewed as a threat, but as a fabulous opportunity. The report made a number of findings on how these opportunities can be seized.   For one, the creation of technology is strangely omitted from many lists of “creative industries”, but it is the source of many of mankind’s greatest creative achievements.   Conveying the innate excitement of technology creation to our children can enthuse and motivate them to embrace the opportunities that new technologies offer. There are some great examples of schools around the world embracing the aptly named “maker movement” and augmenting the traditional knowledge-centred STEM curriculum with a greater emphasis on creative skills to make new technologies. Such an early emphasis on making could help Australia enormously.   But new technologies always fail at some point. The only way humans ever build reliable technologies is to learn from the initial failures.   This ethos of the scientist and engineer can be communicated to the users and adopters of technologies. It simply requires a change of mind-set to one of explicit and controlled experimentation. That is hard to do, but, as our report shows, there are plenty of role models. The key thing is to dispel fear of failure and promote agility.   Technological nation   There are already signs that Malcolm Turnbull is sympathetic to many of the findings in the report. Last week, following his ascendance to the prime ministership, he said:   We have to recognise that the disruption that we see driven by technology, the volatility and change, is our friend […] if we are agile and smart enough to take advantage of it.   Australia’s story can have a much better ending, one enabled by the rich opportunities enabled by new technologies. It is up to us to choose that ending.   This article was first published on The Conversation.

Wyatt Roy says the line to Canberra is open for startups

9:25AM | Wednesday, 23 September

Wyatt Roy made two important phone calls on the day he found out he was to be the youngest federal frontbencher ever.   The first was to Labor MPs Ed Husic and Terri Butler, in an effort to clearly signal an immediate intent to collaborate with all sides of politics and achieve the bipartisanship the startup community is pining for.   “We’re keen to work with the other side,” Roy tells StartupSmart.   The other phone call the Liberal MP made on that Sunday afternoon was to BlueChilli CEO Sebastien Eckersley-Maslin to discuss the current state of Australia’s startup ecosystem and how to better engage the community.   Eckersley-Maslin seems buoyed by the conversation and the new direction of the government.   “Combined with Labor’s budget response and key members like Ed Husic, we finally have bipartisan support for an innovation-driven Australia,” he says.   “The line to Canberra is open”   From Malcolm Turnbull’s very first speech as Australia’s new Prime Minister, the intent was clear to place innovation and startups at the forefront of discussions and politics.   The reshuffle that appointed Roy as the new assistant minister for innovation was dubbed a “cabinet for the future”, and Turnbull’s rhetoric has centred on startup buzzwords like “agility”, “disruption” and new technologies.   The startup community has reacted overwhelmingly positively to this new direction. Some have lauded Turnbull’s ascension to the top job as the “best day Australian startups have seen in years”, while SquarePeg Capital co-founder Paul Basset says we now have a “once in a generation opportunity” to further innovation.   Praise has also been heaped on Roy himself, with prominent investor and entrepreneur Steve Baxter saying he is already acting as an “important bridge” between the startup community and the federal government.   “He’s one of the few federal politicians who has spent real time amongst the startup community,” Baxter says.   But Roy, who has fast become the political figurehead for the startup community across Australia, isn’t feeling the pressure of these heightened expectations.   “MPs always expect that pressure,” he says.   “What is very important is that we use this exciting opportunity to clearly get the message out there about how Australia can be a hub of global entrepreneurialism.”   Speaking to StartupSmart following his first day in parliament as a frontbencher, Roy says the rejigged government is off to a “flying start” and he can already see a “clear change”.   While the startup community as a whole has embraced the government’s newfound focus, actually living up to these lofty expectations and delivering on the potential in terms of policies and actions is another matter.   The best way to ensure the government lives up to its rhetoric is to facilitate direct and regular collaboration with those in the industry, Roy says.   “It’s not going to be the government dictating policy. It’s not heavy-handed government that makes Australia more entrepreneurial,” he says.   “We are going to set up a policy framework so that our startup community can thrive, prosper and grow. It’s important we bring the startup community into the policy-making space, and that’s a very clear intention for myself in this role, and the government.   “The line to Canberra is very open.”   Changing the entrepreneurial culture   Echoing Turnbull’s comments in his acceptance speech, Roy says the first step in developing the startup ecosystem needs to be changing the culture surrounding it.   “One of the first things the PM spoke about was a need to change Australian culture – in government, in business and in the media,” he says.   “There’s a need to be embracing that entrepreneurial spirit and rejecting that tall poppy syndrome. Instead of going to the mines to make hundreds of thousands of dollars, people need to think they can start their own business.”   The government’s clear focus on innovation and entrepreneurialism has already seen a slight cultural shift, with numerous founders and investors gaining a mainstream stage to present the struggles that they face.   “One of the things I’ve really been excited about is that a lot of great entrepreneurs have had a very big platform in the mainstream media,” Roy says.   “There are now going to be dinner table conversations about how Australia can be more innovative and support entrepreneurs. That’s a conversation we need to be having.”   In terms of actual, clear policies, it is still “very early days”.   “There is a whole range of settings and incentives we can put into place to grow the ecosystem,” Roy says.   “We need greater co-operation between government, higher education and the private sector around commercialisation.”   Bringing the expats home   Roy has already signalled one of his most important personal projects: bringing back the “Australian mafia”, the successful entrepreneurs that have relocated overseas.   “The first thing is to pick up the phone,” Roy says.   “It’s very important that expat Aussie entrepreneurs know that in Australia we are very determined to make this a hub of global entrepreneurialism and innovation.   “The government is very determined to ensure we have the best ecosystem in the world.”   Roy, who has previously travelled to Silicon Valley, Israel and the UK, says there are a lot of things that need to change to ensure Australia competes in a tough international environment.   “It’s a global race to be at the head of the innovation wave,” he says.   “We are competing against every other country, and we will do whatever we can to put ourselves at the front of the pack.   “Everyone wants to live in Australia. We need to nail getting the ecosystem right.”   A cross-portfolio challenge   Under the federal governments, startup policy has often been in limbo. No single minister had responsibility, with startups falling under the small business, industry and communication portfolios. Roy is making it clear that things are going to change.   “Startups and small businesses are different things,” he says.   “The PM has been saying in his last few days about supporting startups, and that’s a very clear use of language.”   Startups, by their very nature, fall under the auspices of different ministries.   Roy says he’s already spoken to Minister for Trade and Investment Andrew Robb and new Minister for Small Business Kelly O’Dwyer, not to mention his new boss, Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science Christopher Pyne.   “I’ve spoken to Christopher more times than I’ve spoken to my girlfriend,” Roy says of the past week.   “There’s the ability to work across portfolios to drive the innovation agenda. Nobody is leading this as hard as the PM. He’s completely and utterly committed.”   Roy has already found himself having to explain what ‘innovation’ actually is and how it can be nurtured, pointing to a piece of advice he received from a successful entrepreneur in Boston.   “He said if you have money, ideas and talent and put them together, an entrepreneurial spirit will take hold,” Roy says.   “And he’s right.”   Want to grow your business with Instagram? StartupSmart School can help

Lice killer biotech exit comes up to scratch for Blue Sky

9:31AM | Wednesday, 23 September

Australia will see more world-class exits if investors collaborate and share their capital and expertise, Blue Sky Venture Capital investment director Elaine Stead says.   With biotech startup Hatchtech Blue Sky has just seen the first successful exit from its 2012 portfolio, securing a deal worth nearly $280 million.   A whole range of investors contributed capital to the head lice treatment company, including Uniseed, QIC, OneVentures, GBS Ventures and Blue Sky, and Stead says it’s a sign of what can be achieved when these large investors work together.   “When the investors are aligned and add real value to it is better for the sector and it’s better for investors. It’s a win, win, win,” Stead tells StartupSmart.   “Even if we had more depth of capital, I would encourage collaboration – the more smart people around the table the better.”   A successful exit   Hatchtech has reached a commercial agreement with Indian-based Dr Reddy’s Laboratories for upfront and pre-commercialisation payments of $84 million and commercial milestone payments of $193 million.   Blue Sky invested in the Melbourne-based health-tech company in 2013 as part of a $12 million syndicate led by OneVentures.   The technology company offers the only treatment effective in killing both hatched lice and their eggs in a single treatment.   The exit is a great result for everyone involved, Stead says.   “The company executed its strategy perfectly and this is precisely in line with the investment thesis,” she says.   “It’s fantastic. Most importantly it’s a great result for investors, but it’s a wonderful outcome for the Australian venture capital sector.   “It’s an excellent example of what can be achieved with world class research, innovation and management teams and collaborative venture investors.”   The large exits, along with similar ones from the likes of Spinifex and Fibrotech, show that the Australian venture capital market is finally coming into its own, Stead says.   “I think this reinforces the other wonderful commercial partnerships and exits we have seen recently, particularly in the healthcare sector, and demonstrates how investors can benefit significantly from the private equity sector,” she says.   “There are alternatives to the public markets. The challenges is finding the good managers with a track record, and these exits help define this.”   Secrets to commercialisation   A common problem identified in the Australian startup ecosystem is the commercialisation of ideas into successful companies with potential exits.  This was something that new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull also touched on when announcing the cabinet reshuffle over the weekend.   “One of the things we do not do well at all is the collaboration between primary research, typically in universities, and business. We are actually the second worst in the OECD,” Turnbull said.   “A lot of this is down to changing the culture surrounding this. It’s really important for leaders, PMs, MPs and people in the media to talk about the importance of change, to talk about the importance of science, to talk about the importance of technology.”   Stead agrees, and says this focus on commercialisation and collaboration is crucial in ensuring we see more exits of this size.   “The innovation and commercialisation path is not perfect in Australia and there are still roadblocks,” she says.   “It was still very hard to raise capital for Hatchtech despite its pedigree and opportunity, and others like Spinifex and Atlassian had to raise money offshore to complete their rounds and get the right expertise.   “I think we have built the right platform and infrastructure, now we need to focus on creating more depth – depth of capital, expertise and industry.”   Want to grow your business with Instagram? StartupSmart School can help.

Want your kids to learn another language? Teach them code

9:20AM | Tuesday, 22 September

Among Malcolm Turnbull’s first words as the newly elected leader of the Liberal Party, and hence heading for the Prime Minister’s job, were: “The Australia of the future has to be a nation that is agile, that is innovative, that is creative.”   And near the heart of the matter is the code literacy movement. This is a movement to introduce all school children to the concepts of coding computers, starting in primary school.   One full year after the computing curriculum was introduced by the UK government, a survey there found that six out of ten parents want their kids to learn a computer language instead of French.   The language of code   The language comparison is interesting because computer languages are first and foremost, languages. They are analogous to the written versions of human languages but simpler, requiring expressions without ambiguity.   They have a defining grammar. They come with equivalent dictionaries of nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs; with prepositions and phrase patterns, conjunctions, conditionals and clauses. Of course the dictionaries are less extensive than those of human languages, but the pattern rendering nature of the grammars have much the same purpose.   Kids that code gain a good appreciation of computational thinking and logical thought, that helps them develop good critical thinking skills. I’ve sometimes heard the term “language lawyer” used as a euphemism for a pedantic programmer. Code literacy is good for their life skills kit, never mind their career prospects.   Scratch is one of a new generation of block programming languages aimed at teaching novices and kids as young as eight or nine to write code.     The Scratch language uses coloured blocks to represent the set of language constructs in its grammar. A novice programmer can build up a new program by dragging-and-dropping from a palette of these blocks onto a blank canvas or workspace.   The individual shapes of the blocks are puzzle-like, such that only certain pieces can interlock. This visually enforces the grammar, allowing the coder to concentrate on the creativeness of their whole program.   The Scratch language (and its derivatives) are embedded in a number of different tools and websites, each dedicated to a particular niche of novice programmers. The website is a prime example and has a series of exercises using the block language to teach the fundamentals of computer science. is a non-profit used by 6 million students, 43% of whom are female. It runs the Hour of Code events each year, a global effort to get novices to try to do at least an hour of code.   For a week in May this year, Microsoft Australia partnered with to run the #WeSpeakCode event, teaching coding to more than 7,000 young Australians. My local primary school in Belgrave South in Victoria is using successfully with grade 5 and 6 students.   Unlike prose in a human language, computer programs are most often interactive. In the screenshot of the Scratch example (above) it has graphics from the popular Plants vs Zombies game, one that most kids have already played. They get to program some basic mechanics of what looks a little like the game.     But has a ‘Show Code’ button that reveals the JavaScript code generated behind the coloured blocks (see above). This shows novices what they created in tiles, translated into the formal syntax of a programming language widely used in industry.   It’s not all about the ICT industry   Both parents and politicians with an eye to the future see the best jobs as the creative ones. Digging up rocks, importing, consuming and servicing is not all that should be done in a forward-thinking nation.   But teaching kids to code is not all about careers in computer programming, science and software engineering. Introducing young minds to the process of instructing a computer allows them to go from “I swiped this” to “I made this”. From watching YouTube stars, to showing schoolyard peers how they made their pet cat photo meow.   It opens up young minds to the creative aspects of programming. Not only widening the possible cohort who may well study computer science or some other information and communications technology (ICT) professions, but also in design and the creative arts, and other fields of endeavour yet to transpire or be disrupted.   For most kids, teaching them to code is about opening their mind to a means to an end, not necessarily the end in itself.   This article was first published on The Conversation.

Mal content: Startup community welcomes Turnbull’s ‘cabinet for the future”

9:18AM | Monday, 21 September

Malcolm Turnbull’s appointment as prime minister and the announcement of a “cabinet for the future” gives Australia a “once in a generation” opportunity to become a more innovative nation, SquarePeg Capital co-founder Paul Bassat says.   Turnbull announced an extensive cabinet reshuffle yesterday afternoon, which included a Minister for Innovation for the first time, and new ministers for communication and small business.   The new PM again emphasised the importance of science, innovation and new technologies in his government and policies.   “Today I’m announcing a 21st century government and a ministry for the future,” Turnbull said.   “We have to work more agilely, more innovatively and we have to be more nimble in the way we seize the enormous opportunities that are presented to us.   “We are not looking to proof ourselves against the future; we are seeking to embrace it.”   Former education minister Christopher Pyne has been appointed as the new minister for industry, innovation and science, a position that didn’t exist in the Abbott government.   Strong startup advocate Wyatt Roy will be the assistant minister for innovation, making him the youngest ever federal frontbencher.   Bruce Billson will be replaced as small business minister by Kelly O’Dwyer, while Mitch Fifield will be taking on Turnbull’s old role as communications minister.   Reshuffle reactions from the startup community   Prominent members of the Australian startup community have reacted positively to the reshuffle, with many viewing it as an important first step in following through with the rhetoric used in Turnbull’s acceptance speech last week.   StartupAUS CEO Peter Bradd says he welcomes the cabinet reshuffle.   “There is a passionate and experienced team in place to deliver on Turnbull’s opening promises around innovation and our future economy,” Bradd says.   “It’s reassuring to see technology entrepreneurship and innovation move into its rightful place as one of the most important agendas for this government.”   SquarePeg’s Paul Bassat says that it is “very exciting” news.   “We have a prime minister that’s got a focus on the area, but is equally very knowledgeable about the area,” he says.   “That’s really exciting in terms of what it means for innovation. The announcement of the ministry is really consistent with that.”   He says this leads to a “once in a generation” opportunity for Australia.   “That level of passion for technology and level of knowledge is a rare combination in a leader of a country,” Bassat says. “Good policy isn’t going to guarantee that we become a better and stronger tech ecosystem, but it’s an important enabler for that.”   Changing the weather   Director of the Centre for Business Growth Dr Jana Matthews says having political figureheads acknowledge the importance of startups is very important.   “Leaders make the weather,” Matthews says. “If they are positive and optimistic about the future, employees and citizens become more confident and willing to take risks. If they are fearful and negative about the future, people react accordingly.”   “This leadership team is being led by a prime minister who has a technology background, understands that technology can enable current companies to be more efficient, and new ones to be formed and grown.”   Tech entrepreneur and Shark Tank judge Steve Baxter says it’s important to wait and see what policies are implemented.   “The real key now is to make sure we see the development and implementation of a consistent national innovation policy that provides strong support for the innovation and startup community,” he says.   “A consistent policy combined with a supportive regulatory and taxation regime will take advantage of the extraordinary opportunity currently before Australia to boost our entrepreneurial and startup activity.”   Innovation brought into the ministry   As he announced the host of changes, Turnbull put much focus on Pyne’s new role and its direct relation to startups and innovation.   “Christopher is going to be at the centre, as is the whole government, of one of our most important agendas,” Turnbull said. “If we want to remain a prosperous first world economy, with a generous social welfare safety net, we must be more competitive, we must be more productive and above all we must be more innovative.”   “Christopher’s department will drive the government’s focus on investing in science, promoting STEM education, supporting startups and bringing together innovation initiatives right across government.”   In a statement, Pyne says it is a “great honour” to be taking on this new role.   “With a sweeping tide of new disruptive technologies that will entirely transform the way we live and the way we work, Australian industry must continue to lead the world in research and innovation, ensuring our nation can seize the opportunities ahead,” Pyne says.   “We have the technical capacity and capability to remain a nation with industries that offer the jobs of the 21st century.”   Leaders in the startup community have welcomed Pyne’s new position, pointing to his support for STEM education during his time as education minister.   “Pyne has already made some important progress in the STEM area in his role as minister for education by formally introducing coding into the Australian curriculum,” Baxter says.   “This is an important milestone and shows Australian ministers are starting to embrace the pipeline approach necessary for Australia to not just survive but thrive in the innovation space.”   Wyatt Roy steps up   Tech enthusiast Wyatt Roy has been appointed as the assistant minister for innovation, a move that has been lauded by the Australian startup community.   Roy has already acted as an “important bridge” between the startup community and government this year, Baxter says.   “He’s also one of the few federal politicians who has spent real time amongst the startup community,” he says. “It’s clear he understands the startup ecosystem and what needs to be done to support it.”   Matthews agrees, saying it’s important that politicians understand and embrace startups.   “I’m encouraged to see two ministers appointed who understand the importance of innovation,” she says.   “The choice of Wyatt Roy means someone who understands the shifts taking place in our global economy will have an opportunity to shape public policy for Australia.”   Following in Turnbull’s footsteps   Senator Mitch Fifield will be taking on Turnbull’s former role as communications minister.   Australia Computer Society acting CEO Kim Finch says she is “looking forward” to working with him to help build Australia’s “digital capability”.   “Senator Fifield will bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the role, which will help navigate digital policy through a sometimes challenging political process,” she says.   Research and business collaboration   While announcing the changes, Turnbull also signalled an increased focus on assisting the collaboration between research and business, something which the startup community has been saying is a major issue for some time now.   “We do a lot of things great. We do a lot of great research and development. We do a lot of great science,” Turnbull said.   “One of the things we do not do well at all is the collaboration between primary research, typically in universities, and business. We are actually the second worst in the OECD.   “That is a very important priority to make a change to that.”   A lot of this is down to changing the culture surrounding this, Turnbull said.   “It’s really important for leaders, PMs, MPs and people in the media to talk about the importance of change, to talk about the importance of science, to talk about the importance of technology.”   Echoing some of his comments made during the acceptance speech, Turnbull again played up the important of startups and disruption in Australia’s economic future.   “We are living in the 21st century. We are living in a world that has been transformed in a very short period of time by science,” Turnbull said.   “Many, if not most of the largest and most transformative businesses in the world today – if they were humans they would still be in school, many of them still at primary school.   “We have to be a government, and we will be a government, for the future.”   Want to grow your business with Instagram? StartupSmart School can help

Get with the program: Coding to be taught in schools from primary age

9:00PM | Sunday, 20 September

Coding has replaced history and geography in Australia’s new digital technologies curriculum which was endorsed by education ministers on Friday.   As the Australian reports, it ensures that 21st century computer coding will be taught in primary schools from Year 5, and programming will be taught from Year 7.   It’s as part of a slimmed-down national curriculum that was given the tick of approval by Education Minister Christopher Pyne in one of his last acts before being sworn in as Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science later this morning.   There’s been a big push for a greater focus on coding and STEM subjects in schools from a primary level, and it seems a good fit with new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s heavy focus on innovation and preparing for the jobs and economies of the future.   The government will be pumping $12 million into four separate STEM initiatives: the development of innovative maths curriculum, the introduction of computer coding, a P-TECH-style school pilot site and the funding of summer schools for STEM students from underrepresented groups.   “High quality school STEM education is critically important for Australia’s productivity and economy wellbeing, both now and into the future,” Pyne said in a statement.   “We are restoring the focus on STEM subjects in schools and making sure our teachers get more instruction on STEM during initial teacher training.”   Opposition Leader Bill Shorten signalled his support for coding in schools earlier this year but then prime minister Tony Abbott was not impressed.   “He said that he wants primary school kids to be taught coding so they can get the jobs of the future,” Abbott said.   “Does he want to send them all out to work at the age of 11?”   Want to grow your business with Instagram? StartupSmart School can help

Technolog: Swift vs Apple, Aus govt votes to block sites and Netflix makes it moot

6:47PM | Sunday, 28 June

Last week was significant for the media industry, with a hiccup in the launch of Apple Music resolved and Netflix demonstrating that providing customers with what they want trumps government legislation defending traditional, restricted practices. The media companies arguing that it is only Apple and Netflix that will gain from the new order rings slightly hollow when you consider that they could have done all of this themselves a long time ago.   Apple keeps Taylor Swift happy after she lectures them on music economics This week saw a major backdown by Apple over its decision not to pay music companies and artists during their planned three month free trial of Apple Music. The reversal is credited to a blog post written by Taylor Swift on Tumblr in which she explains why she was pulling her album, “1989”, off the Apple Music service.   This was not about her, she explained, but “about the new artist or band that has just released their first single and will not be paid for its success. This is about the young songwriter who just got his or her first cut and thought that the royalties from that would get them out of debt.”   It is not clear from Apple’s change of heart whether they were more swayed by Swift’s pulling of her album or the possibility of what must be a tiny number of people being seriously impacted by not having revenues that they wouldn’t have earned if Apple wasn’t launching this service.   Irrespective of whether Apple didn’t understand the logic in the argument either, keeping Taylor Swift happy was probably worth paying a premium for, if for no other reason than to distinguish themselves from Spotify, who couldn’t manage to keep her happy.   Australia keeps media companies happy by introducing ineffective site blocking legislation In more media news, the power of media companies was felt in Australia, where the government passed an amendment to the Copyright Act, which will allow rights holders to seek to block websites that are deemed to be pirating their content.   Critics have pointed out numerous problems with the bill, with the primary issue being that it is trivial to circumvent using a VPN connection. As detailed before in response to Voltage Pictures’ action over the illegal downloading of the Dallas Buyers Club movie, VPN technology is being increasingly adopted to mask BitTorrent downloads and so generally will get around any blocks that the internet service provider puts in place.   Interestingly, VPNs are also increasingly popular to gain access to US content on services that a user is actually paying for, especially Netflix.   The weakness of the government’s move has led people to consider whether they will allow the blocking of companies that provide VPN services, and even block VPN itself. But Australian Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has stated that VPN has legitimate uses and there were no plans to block this type of service. Netflix keeps consumers happy by actually giving them what they want Another element to the “locking the stable door after the horse has bolted” Australian Government legislation, was the report that Netflix had signed up over 1 million users in Australia since its launch April this year. This compares to the 300,000 users of all of its rivals combined.   If proof were needed that Australians (and indeed consumers globally) would actually pay for content if it was provided in a convenient and affordable way, this has to be it.   There is still a disparity between the content provided in Australia compared to the US, but this is likely to diminish over time as Netflix renegotiates global distribution rights.   Until then, there is always the option of paying for Netflix and using a VPN.   David Glance is Director of UWA Centre for Software Practice at University of Western Australia. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen blasts government for squandering “massive opportunity” due to delay in equity crowdfunding scheme

5:16AM | Friday, 29 May

Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen has accused the federal government of missing out on a “massive opportunity” by not already having an equity crowdfunding framework in place.   Earlier this week Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull said bureaucratic hurdles within Treasury were to blame for Australia not having legislation in place to govern equity crowdfunding, unlike countries such as New Zealand and the US.   The federal budget, which was handed down last week, suggested an equity crowdfunding framework would be put in place before the end of the 2015-16 financial year.   More than $7 million has been set aside over four years so the Australian Securities and Investments Commission can implement and monitor the new framework, which will include simplified reporting and disclosure requirements.   However, specific details, such as whether there will be an investment cap, are still unknown.   Labor will support equity crowdfunding legislation   In an address to the National Press Club on Wednesday, Bowen said this was not good enough.   “Who’s running the show?” he asked.   “Stop blaming Treasury and start fixing it. We’re again, happy to facilitate, happy to support anything sensible in crowdsourced funding because the sector needs certainty. If it can be done in a bipartisan way we’re all for it, but in the absence of that we’ve put out our own ideas about how to deal with crowdsource funding.”   Crowdsourced equity funding is legal in Australia. However, there are significant regulatory hurdles, and a legislative framework is expected to streamline the process and allow startups to raise capital by offering equity to small-scale retail investors.   When grilled about whether Labor should be focusing so much of its economic policy on high-risk tech companies, Bowen said the benefits outweigh the potential risks.   “Most startups will fail,” he said.   “That’s how the system operates. Those who succeed, succeed very well. A good thing for the country is generating lots of jobs, lots of wealth for entrepreneurs and lots of jobs for people working for them and the multiplier effect here is the highest of any economic activity. Five jobs for one, that’s an impressive multiplier. That’s why it’s central to our economic agenda.”   Startups have long been asking for a crowdsourced equity funding scheme, with Freelancer chief executive Matt Barrie previously telling StartupSmart that it was outrageous that anyone can blow their life savings at the casino but not everyone could make a considered investment in a tech company with potentially very high returns.   “You can go into any casino in this country and bet your entire life savings, but for some reason we think there should be a cap in what people should be investing in what will have a huge impact on wealth in this country,” he said.   Do you know more on this story or have a tip of your own? Raising capital or launching a startup? Let us know. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Adapt or perish: Australia Post must embrace digital disruption

4:55AM | Tuesday, 14 April

Most industries are vulnerable to digital disruption of established business models, including public sector services. The question is whether such industries use the opportunity to reposition in their markets by disrupting themselves. Or whether they wait to be disrupted by external forces, with the prospect of a one-way ticket to oblivion.   This was the message from Minister for Communications Malcolm Turnbull when he launched the new Digital Transformation Office (DTO) at UTS recently. For Turnbull, the role of the DTO is to ensure that to the greatest extent possible government services are delivered digitally. He wants interactions with government to be “as easy as internet banking or ordering a taxi through an app”.   Australians are getting used to, and indeed expect, more of their transactions with government and business to be through online platforms. But a new report by UTS Business School for the McKell Institute shows that the pace of digital transformation is now disrupting one of the government’s largest and most iconic business enterprises – Australia Post.   The report Digital Post: Business Transformation and the Future Sustainability of Australia Post highlights the critical and disruptive impact of the internet, online commerce, big data and increased computer power on the organisation. And it proposes a strategy for Australia Post to succeed in the digital age.   Australia Post is a huge and complex operation. It has assets totalling A$4.6 billion, revenues of A$6.4 billion and 32,500 employees. There is a retail network of 4,417 outlets, of which 2,560 are in rural or remote areas. Almost two thirds of these outlets are privately owned and operate as licensed post offices. There are also 762 community postal agencies.   Traditionally, mail volumes have grown in alignment with GDP growth. But between 2008-09 and 2013-14, mail volume declined by 25% to 4.5 billion items. This, in turn, has contributed to a major deterioration in financial performance. In the first half of 2014-15, the loss in the mail business was A$151 million and it is expected to be over $300 million for the full year.   The consequence of digital disruption to the long established mail businessis that, without significant business realignment, total Australia Post losses could reach $6.6 billion over the next 10 years, with losses in the mail business reaching $12.1 billion. The government’s equity in Australia Post, currently $1.7 billion, would quickly be destroyed.   Remedies such as price increases and discounted slower delivery can only offer a short-term solution. Abandoning the letters business on the premise that “the letter is dead” runs counter to community service obligations in rural and remote communities, as well as obligations to employees.   To address the challenge imposed by digital transformation, Australia Post must itself become a “digital enterprise”, where the adoption, application and use of digital technologies is at the forefront of strategy. It must move from a focus on evolution and improvement to one of innovation, co-creation and disruption.   This means going well beyond elaborate websites and mobile apps. Going digital means pursuing initiatives that will truly transform the customer experience and build digital capability through support for and investment in new business opportunities. Australia Post currently has a tangible platform and opportunity to do this through its retail network.   Up to now, Australia Post has actively pursued new opportunities in the mail business such as MyPost, but these initiatives do not yet reflect the sort of innovations in customer service seen in banks and other technology-intensive retail businesses.   Australia Post retail outlets could be transformed to operate as digital communication hubs, specialising in the marketing and sale of digitally enabled products and services. For example, these hubs could provide digital services and access to people who for various reasons cannot access digital communication devices and services.   Retail post offices can provide important intermediary, advisory and value added services for micro businesses and small NGOs in the growing e-commerce market, nationally and internationally. Australia Post should leverage its trusted reputation to assist these entities with the development of online capability.   Through SecurePay, it already assists entrepreneurs setting up an online business. Further development would see selected postal outlets working as innovation hubs that provide a nucleus for the formation, development and experimentation with new ideas in digital communication. These ideas could be piloted for adoption and application in local areas. Australia Post can bring value to technology start-ups by providing access to its digital communication and distribution platforms – essential for prototype development and bringing products to market.   Innovation hubs would have both an internal and external focus, engaging with research organisations and the broader innovation ecosystem. They would also provide a focus for networking, innovation workshops and events relating to innovation, particularly in regional and rural areas. They would promote an interest in innovation to the growing start-up community, possibly even partnering with start-ups in new opportunities.   Moving in this direction will require not only a substantial investment in new technologies and skills but also a change in mindset. It must be part of a broader strategy of bringing digital transformation to the centre of public sector management capability and practice. Only by doing so can the future of Australia Post be secured as a digital age business.   This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Why Malcolm Turnbull wants to charge Google and Facebook GST on Australian ad revenue

3:20AM | Monday, 16 March

Multinational tech giants Google and Facebook could soon be charged goods and services tax on advertising booked by Australian companies if a proposal flagged by federal Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull is adopted.   While multinational corporations continue to come under fire for minimising their tax bills in Australia, Turnbull has floated the idea of using GST as a way to claw back some of this forgone tax revenue.   “The Australian media industry is under enormous pressure from online platforms – notably Google and Facebook,” Turnbull said in a statement issued to SmartCompany.   “The modest amounts of company tax both companies pay in Australia has been a matter of great concern, here as well as in other countries, and there is a global discussion going on about how these internet age companies should be taxed in a manner that delivers a fair return to the countries where they make most of their money.”   Turnbull said Australia has “a real problem … in the erosion of our tax bases” but said “changes to international tax treaties take time and are contentious”.   “Another approach which has been canvassed is to impose the GST on advertising booked on these platforms by Australian residents,” Turnbull said.   “At the moment, little or no GST is collected in respect of advertising by Australians on international online platforms like Google and Facebook. This can be done unilaterally and would recover very substantial amounts of revenue.”   According to The Australian, local companies are expected to spend more than $2.4 billion on online advertising with the likes of Google and Facebook, with a 10% GST charge therefore raising $240 million for the state governments.   “All of these questions are being considered in the tax review that the government is undertaking,” Turnbull said.   “We need to have a frank and informed discussion about how to ensure Australia is not short-changed in the internet age and the review will ensure that discussion is very well informed.”   Kate Carnell, chief executive of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, told SmartCompany the proposal is “worth having a close look at”.   “[Turnbull] is absolutely right that the international process of addressing base erosion and profit shifting we’re involved in with the OECD and others is a really important process, but getting the G20 plus the broader OECD together to agrees on issues is really hard,” Carnell says.   “It’s got to happen but finding other ways to address the issue here in Australia is essential.”   Carnell says the Australian economy quite clearly has a “problem with revenue” and it makes sense to consider proposals that can address this.   “What’s exciting about it is it’s important to have new ideas,” Carnell says.   “There’s got to be a debate about new and fair ways to generate revenue and make sure companies and the community more broadly pay a fair amount of money.”   SmartCompany contacted Google and Facebook but did not receive a response prior to publication.

Australian founders think Malcolm Turnbull is a startup hero

3:41PM | Monday, 9 March

Malcolm Turnbull is considered to be the politician most supportive of startups despite a relatively grim view towards government assistance, according to the largest survey of the Australian startup ecosystem.   Of the more than 600 Australian startup founders that completed the 2015 Startup Muster survey, around 10% named Malcolm Turnbull as the politician who was most supportive of fast-growing tech companies.   Alex Greenwhich, the independent member for Sydney in the NSW state parliament, came in at second place with 2.9% of respondents indicating he was the politician most likely to be a startup’s best friend.   However, almost half of respondents – 45% to be precise – answered “none” when asked which politician has been particularly supportive of the startup industry, while 27% said they were unsure.   The most important thing government can do to support startups, according to respondents, is provide more funding and grants. The second most popular suggestion was to provide incentives to founders and investors – with implementing employee share scheme reforms also rating highly.     Murray Hurps, general manager of Fishburners and founder of the Startup Muster, told StartupSmart while he wasn’t surprised that Turnbull was the most recognised politician among participants he was surprised by how much he won by.   “That caused me to then go around and try to figure out why that’s the case – and it was mainly around them seeing him as a successful businessman and through that process understanding what was difficult for him and what he can do,” he says.   “It’s hard for startups to name politicians that have implemented any particular policy or campaign and I think that’s because startup founders are very busy people, are underfunded in Australia and are working hard to get something off the ground.”     Hurps says if anything, the findings of the survey represents an opportunity for politicians like Turnbull to showcase what they are doing to support the startup ecosystem – for example, helping to address the “huge shortage” of technical talent through curriculum changes.   “They have got the attention of the startup industry now,” he says.   “People doing amazing things should be recognised. There are some really powerful levers that government can pull in terms of incentivising founders and investors, attracting talent to the country and creating more talent locally. It’s the job of the industry to show they’re worthwhile.”   Minister for Communications Malcolm Turnbull said in a statement promoting innovation and boosting productivity was a priority for the Abbott government.   “We are improving the regulatory conditions that enable startups and tech companies to thrive,” he says.   “Part of this process has been unwinding changes to the tax treatment of employee share schemes that were introduced by the former government in 2009 and which effectively brought to a halt the use of such schemes for startup companies in Australia. We are also considering the introduction of smart laws to enable crowdfunding as has been done in comparable markets including the US, New Zealand, Canada, Israel and the UK.”   Alex Greenwich, meanwhile, says all levels of government need to “lift their game” when it comes to supporting digital entrepreneurship.   “The future growth of our economy will not be dug out of the ground, it will be found in the innovation sector,” he says.   “From education to immigration, governments need to do what it takes to support this vital sector.”   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Geospatial conference an opportunity to put Queensland startups on the map

3:28AM | Friday, 6 March

Brisbane is hosting a national conference for the geospatial industry, with the event presenting a valuable opportunity for startups developing or consuming mapping and geospatial services to network with leading industry, government and academic figures.   The Locate conference runs at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre from March 10 to 12. It features an open day on the Tuesday where members of the public can view around 50 displays, with some tickets still available for the Tuesday and Wednesday sessions.   Conference convenor Steve Jacoby, who is the executive director of land and spatial information at the Department of Natural Resources and Mines, says geospatial services and maps are increasingly crucial to the economy.   He estimates the sector is worth between $12 and $18 billion to Australia each year, and around $250 billion per year annually.   “This is our national geospatial conference… We expect around 500 people from all sorts of allied industries to attend, including surveying, mapping, the mobile space, gaming and other emerging disciplines,” Jacoby says.   “For people in the Brisbane area, there’s a free public open day where they can experience the latest data acquisition techniques, as well as emerging trends in apps.   “[Federal Communications Minister] Malcolm Turnbull is opening the conference with a keynote on the 11th, and there’s a number of keynotes and streams – especially around things like open data and the opportunities for entrepreneurs to value add.”   The conference also covers a number of other uses for geospatial data, including in the military, environmental management, in-car navigation systems, and the rapidly emerging field of augmented reality.   “We’re very much into putting data into the hands of consumers and putting petabytes of live current 3D data – that once only experts could access – into the hands of mainstream consumers.”   People interested in attending can find out more by clicking here. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

What Australia’s economy will look like in 2050: report

2:48AM | Wednesday, 11 February

The Australian economy will drop out of the G20 by 2050, according to research published today by PwC.   And the slide will continue unless the nation’s leaders fundamentally change the way they think about investing in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills, says one of the country’s leading technology entrepreneurs, Matt Barrie.   The PwC The World in 2050 report predicts the Australian economy will drop 10 places in world rankings by the middle of the century, dropping from its current rank of 19 to 29.   This would put the Australian economy behind the likes of growing economies such as Bangladesh, Pakistan and the Philippines and far behind economic powerhouses China, India and the US, which are predicted to stay at the top of the rankings over the next 35 years.   According to PwC, the end of the Australian mining boom, and a lack of investment in other parts of the economy, will cause the Australian economy to fall behind.   The PwC rankings are determined by comparing the purchasing power parity of each economy and this year’s result shows a broad shift from developed economies to emerging economies.   While China is predicted to remain the largest economy by 2050, India is expected to overtake the US for second place, and Indonesia, Mexico and Nigeria could push the UK and France out of the top 10.   The Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia are expected to shoot up the rankings, while Colombia and Poland will grow at a faster rate than the large economies of Brazil and Russia.   Read more: STEM is critical for Australia’s economy   PwC Australia economics partner Jeremy Thorpe told SmartCompany the research indicates the Australian economy will “revert to trend” and we “won’t see the mining boom in the same way”.   While Thorpe says PwC is not trying to predict exactly what the Australian economy will look like, the takeaway from the research is that “we know the economy is going to be different and STEM will be important wherever it goes”.   “The Australian economy is not going to be as large in relative terms and so our companies are not going to be competing on scale,” Thorpe says.   “They will be competing at the smarter end.”   Thorpe says this represents an opportunity for “smaller, nimble companies”, especially those built on digital disruptive technology, and that is why it is essential to make long-term investments in STEM capabilities.   “Many of these things don’t pay off immediately,” says Thorpe.   “You can’t cut the ribbon in the same way you can for a new bridge, you have to look beyond the political cycle. But as the events of the past week have shown, it can be heard to divert attention from the here and now.”   Freelancer founder Matt Barrie agrees with Thorpe’s analysis, telling SmartCompany he fears the Australian economy will follow the same path as the resource-rich Argentina, which saw a dramatic decline in its wealth because of government policies that did not alter the composition of the economy.   Barrie has spoken out regularly about the need for investment in STEM skills in Australia, including to Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull last year.   “We have actually gone backwards in our thinking about the tech industry or science,” says Barrie, who lays the blame with “successive Australian governments”.   “There have been rampant cuts. I don’t think it would be possible to do more damage.”   Barrie points to cuts to funding for science research, declining university enrolments in STEM subjects and courses, the “dumbing down” of curriculum in primary and secondary schools, as well as the “screwing up” of remuneration schemes for technology companies, as just some of what he believes are damaging policies.   “It just goes on and on and on,” he says. “We’re at risk of becoming a shipwreck … It’s death by a thousand cuts.”   If given the chance, Barrie says the first thing he would change is the K-12 curriculum taught in Australian schools.   “Every little kid wants to design the next Facebook … the next mobile phone app but they don’t know how,” he says.   “We need to help them connect the dots.”   He would also encourage more people to work in STEM fields and appoint a national chief technology officer who would be responsible for setting longer-term goals.   But as long as the topic remains off the table in Canberra, Barrie says he “is at a loss”.   “There is fundamentally something wrong in the way our country is governed,” he says.   This article originally appeared at SmartCompany.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Fears Abbott's metadata laws could force small ISPs out of business, as calls for more consultation grow

2:39AM | Friday, 6 February

There are growing concerns the federal government’s proposed data retention laws could force smaller internet service providers and telcos out of business, with frustration mounting over inadequate consultation over the issue.   Metadata generally describes data about calls, emails, website visits and other electronic messages, such as the time they took place and where they originated, but does not include the content of these messages themselves.   Under legislation proposed by the federal government last year, ISPs would be required to store this data for a period of up to two years, with law enforcement agencies given the ability to access this information without a warrant.   Director of Smart50 finalist Broadband Solutions, Sam Bashiry, told SmartCompany if the legislation is adopted, the impact on smaller ISPs will be much larger than on telecommunications giants such as Optus, Telstra, Vodafone or iiNet.   “The likes of Optus and Telstra have a massive budget for that sort of thing – we don’t,” Bashiry says.   “And the last thing we want to see in this country is some of the smaller ISPs going out of business.”   Bashiry says the lack of information and consultation with smaller ISPs is his biggest concern with the legislation.   “There should be one law for all and there should be more consultation with smaller ISPs, because not all of the information is out there. It’s like the NBN – there are so many changes constantly being made,” Bashiry says.   “And how it will affect smaller ISPs will depend on how deep it goes. If it’s just browser history, that’s not really an issue. But if emails also need to be stored, there are costs involved with that.   “I read in the paper that under the laws, there is to be no need to keep records for Gmail accounts, but if a customer uses their ISP’s email account, then you’ll need to keep records. Now, that’s a huge loophole and there needs to be one rule for all.”   Bashiry’s concerns echo those made by industry lobby group the Communications Alliance in comments to News Corp, as well as by the peak body for Tasmania’s Information Communication Technology sector, TasICT.   TasICT executive director Dean Winter told SmartCompany small ISPs are anxious about what the new laws will mean for them.   “TasICT is very concerned that these proposed laws have been poorly communicated and not well understood,” Winter says.   “Any new requirement for data retention will have a proportionally higher impact on small ISPs. They would be likely to spend considerably more time and resources in attempting to understand the regulation and then implement and maintain the systems required to comply.”   “The process needs to be delayed so that government and industry can clarify which organisations will actually be covered by the scheme.”   SmartCompany contacted the Department of Communications and Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull this morning but did not receive a response prior to publication.   However, in a speech to Parliament late last year, Minister Turnbull defended the proposed legislation, pointing out that historically phone companies held records detailing the time, duration, and A and B parties of phone calls.   “Access to metadata plays a central role in almost every counter-terrorism, counterespionage, cybersecurity and organised crime investigation,” Turnbull said.   “It is also used in almost all serious criminal investigations, including investigations into murder, serious sexual assaults, drug trafficking and kidnapping. The use of this kind of metadata, therefore, is not new. However, as the business models of service providers are changing with technology, they are keeping fewer records.”   “In June 2013, the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security concluded that this diminution in the retention of metadata is harming law enforcement and national security capabilities, and that these changes are accelerating.”   Image credit: Flickr/gabitogol   This article orignally appeared on SmartCompany.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Turnbull’s new government startup will push open data, unitary sign-in

1:55AM | Wednesday, 28 January

A new digital “start-up” inside the Canberra bureaucracy will explore more innovative uses of data along with bringing quality control to online service delivery — and it’s already attracted international attention.   More details have been released about the Digital Transformation Office, the new Department of Communications unit announced by the Abbott government on Friday. A “small team of developers, designers, researchers and content specialists” will drive the existing myGov digital platform and other projects focusing on “end-user needs in developing digital services”.   A recruitment process for senior roles in the new agency — including a chief executive — will begin shortly, looking for digital transformation experts regardless of whether they cut their teeth in the public or private sector. Whoever fills those roles will quickly get to know all of government’s service arms as it takes on a central agency-like position, assuming responsibility for leading all government ICT investment decisions relating to citizen-focused service delivery, as well as acting as “digital champion” and educator for agencies with limited digital expertise.   A spokesman for Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull told The Mandarin there are synergies in the Department of Communications between the digital-by-default ethos and practice that the public have come to expect — seamless interaction with government:   “This agency isn’t designed to operate in a silo. Some agencies do things already incredibly well … others have made very little progress. The point behind this agency is that it’ll be the first time that we will have that whole-of-government perspective.   “You won’t see dribs and drabs of good stuff and quite a lot of bad. You will see, hopefully, a level playing field of very good performance.”   Turnbull (pictured) said on Friday the unit will “operate more like a startup” than a traditional government agency.   One of the primary tasks will be to develop a unitary log-in for government services, while protecting privacy and security of digital identities. The myGov log-in process — which won the Silver and Collaboration Award at the Excellence in Public Service Management awards last year — will be expanded. According to Turnbull’s office:   “That identity assurance space is probably the most significant issue governments around the world are grappling with in the digital space. Are you who you say you are? And therefore once we’ve determined that you are who you say you are, we’re providing a seamless log-in process where that can be duplicated across agencies as opposed to having to do that countless times.”   The government’s vision includes a consistent “look and feel” that meets the needs and expectations of the user, fewer roadblocks, and digital from start to finish. Turnbull will also direct the new agency to look at all possible advances in digital service delivery across government. According to the spokesperson:   “The classic example is going to be how we utilise data. Obviously there’s been quite a bit push in the open data space already, so how have we leveraged that data, and how have we leveraged analytics to improve the services we deliver?”   Trials of more open data uses will be announced later this year.   So is this a complete takeover of ICT? Not according to a spokesperson at the Department of Communications:   “Government agencies will retain responsibility for ICT investment decisions that do not relate to citizen-focused digital service delivery.”   The Department of Human Services developed myGov for Centrelink, Medicare and other welfare transactions, but it now includes the Australian Taxation Office’s online system. The department had begun engaging other agencies on expanding the service.   Human Services senior executive Ben Rimmer was a significant driver of the project before he departed earlier this month for a post as CEO of the City of Melbourne.   The UK government’s Mike Bracken, executive director of Digital in the Cabinet Office and head of the Government Digital Service GDS, extended his congratulations to DTO on Monday, blogging that it was “exciting stuff”:   “Needless to say, you have our heartfelt support. If you need input from us, we’ll be happy to provide it. And if any of your team find yourselves visiting the UK, you’ll be made welcome at our office in Holborn. It will be the least we can do to repay the hospitality shown to Ben Terrett and Liam Maxwell when they visited Australia last summer at the invitation of Minister for Communications Malcolm Turnbull.   “Digital transformation is fast becoming an international effort, something we saw clearly at the D5 summit we hosted in London last December. The Australian team joins others in Mexico, Israel, the USA, Estonia, Singapore, South Korea and New Zealand — together, we’re building an amazing community of knowledge and experience. The pace of momentum is striking.”    This article originally appeared at The Mandarin.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.