Australia lagging behind in innovation stakes

Collaboration, NBN to take Australia out of ‘stagnant pond’ of technology

Greater collaboration between business and technologists must take place if Australia is to become more innovative, claims Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) chairman, John Grant.

Grant spoke to a large crowd of IT professionals at the recent World Computer Congress 2010 in Brisbane, where he noted a number of recent studies indicate Australian businesses are largely falling behind when it comes to innovation.

“In the last eight years, Australia has slipped from eighth to 15th in the innovation stakes,” Grant said.

“Secondly, when we look at research and development as a percentage of GDP (gross domestic product), Australian ranks equal 16th in the world at 1.6 per cent.”

Grant said while technologists have recently found it hard to innovate, some in the industry have been ignoring the issue.

"Many of us face the challenge of achieving more with less and this is often unrelenting,” he said. “Most of us are technologists and as a result, have our heads buried on many issues.”

While some technologists may be ignoring the issue, Grant said the desire for innovation in Australia became clear during the recent Federal Election, in which the $43 billion National Broadband Network (NBN) was a deciding factor in which party formed government.

“While no political party had any major sway, the really clear outcome was that there will be a greater focus on ubiquitous high speed broadband,” he said. “These actions represent a huge shift in the direction of our country, but those in business have to take up the opportunities of innovation in technology, and we in technology have to help them in this process.”

Grant described the NBN as a chance for Australia to become more innovative.

“The NBN provides an opportunity for us to leap from the stagnant pond that we’ve been sitting in for a very long time,” he said. “One that has seen internet speeds and prices at the worst ends of the global spectrum, and will become the focal point from which many initiatives innovation can spawn.”

Grant concluded by saying innovation was not one sector’s job, but rather a collaborative effort between business, government and technologists.

“Overall, as an Australian, it’s hard not to be concerned by these statistics, particularly in terms of our future, we’re most likely following rather than leading change,” he said. “Adoption of innovation must occur in businesses, government and organisations across Australia.”

Grant’s insights came as founder of Classroom 2.0, Steve Hargadon, also addressed the congress, noting schools are struggling to be innovative and implement creative learning methodologies in the classroom.

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