By Leon Gettler >>

THE GOVERNMENT watered down its media bargaining code in its desperation to get a deal with Facebook, which will have big impact on small and medium publishers and entrenches the monopoly of Google and Facebook.

So says Matt Nguyen, policy lead at Reset Australia which has been instrumental in its work to get the code up.

“They wanted to push it through as quickly as possible and not have to think about that again,” Mr Nguyen told Talking Business.

“We’re worried about the broader implications of acquiescing to Google and Facebook’s demands so easily, but the proof will be in the pudding in (a few) months when they do a review.”

He said Google and Facebook are two of the most powerful companies in the 21st century and their influence extends far beyond Australia. What was needed, he said, was legislation. 

“Only through legislation, co-ordinated legislation, not just in Australia but in Canada, the UK, the US and the EU, might we be able to dismantle some of their influence and some of the harms that have been engendered by their business model,” Mr Nguyen said.

“So looking specifically at the news code that has just gone through and what a collective bargaining agreement might have looked like, or (how) a pigeon-holed tax might have looked to ensure a robust and sustainable news media sector … That could have worked and might have helped the market failure that is journalism at the moment.

“But from our perspective, a broader view is that it has to be about legislation to rein in the harms of these big tech platforms,” he said.

“Only through legislation, co-ordinated legislation, might we be able to unpack this.”

AUSTRALIANS NOT IMPRESSED

Mr Nguyen said the process had “left a bad taste in a lot of Australians’ mouths”.

He said the ACCC had a whole suite of recommendations, which included funding the ABC, which were not taken and the news media code was seen as a ‘Murdoch prop-up’.

Mr Nguyen said Reset Australia wanted to a pragmatic approach and, just because it might not have been the most optimum solution forward, it didn’t mean it couldn’t be made to work for as many Australians as possible,

“Where it’s ended now is disappointing for us and we think there could have been a suite of measures through this code and looking beyond this code to ensure that journalism is sustainable,” Mr Nguyen said.

“We need to ensure that small and medium journalistic companies are funded properly.”

Mr Nguyen said the eligibility requirement for small publishers to get into the code in the first place should have been decreased and the platforms needed to be more transparent about how they serve journalistic content.

“I guess where we’re most disappointed is that we saw the intention of this legislation to deconstruct the monopolistic dominance of Google and Facebook,” Mr Nguyen said.

“Where it has become watered down to has strayed away from that intention.”

Mr Nguyen said Reset Australia wanted to set up guard rails and regulations similar to what the EU has done around ensuring the digital platforms worked in the public interest.

“It’s about having an undercurrent of a rights based framework over our own data,” he said.

“These companies hoover up data on all of us creating these profiles that they use to actively manipulate us, whether that’s by serving ads or whether that’s by engendering hate speech, or whether that’s by promoting polarisation.”

https://au.reset.tech

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Hear the complete interview and catch up with other topical business news on Leon Gettler’s Talking Business podcast, released every Friday at www.acast.com/talkingbusiness

THE Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) has called for a greater focus on the digital economy in its Western Australia pre-election policy statement, making eight recommendations and identifying several key areas of focus in the lead up to the March State Election.

With Western Australia ranking fourth on Australia’s digital inclusion index, there is capacity for WA to move ahead of third place NSW in the next 12 months, according to AIIA CEO, Ron Gauci .

“The COVID pandemic has demonstrated that digital technologies are core to effective public policy, citizen engagement and productivity," Mr Gauci said. "We are now routinely seeing innovative technology driving investments across Australia in areas such as health, mining, defence and education.

“We only need to look at how effective the WA Safe app has proven itself to be in the continuing fight against Covid-19 in WA.

“Government needs to continue to be an exemplar in the digital space, working with the digital industries sector to continue to grow jobs and to open new opportunities within regional communities,” Mr Gauci said. 

The Western Australian AIIA Council chair, Sharon Brown reiterated this view.

“Our strategy aims to target opportunities for the digital industries sector to be one of the pillars of continued economic recovery in 2021 and beyond," Ms Brown said.

"We would like to see major spending initiatives, such as the massive MetroNet transport project, include a commitment towards digital capability development,” she said.

A further recommendation was for the government to provide a more competitive platform for the delivery of 'cloud' based services to government agencies.

“The current restricted ICT panel arrangements limit the WA Government’s ability to deliver for the people of WA and we propose a more competitive approach to working with a wider range of providers," Mr Gauci said. "This will boost the industry and aid WA."

AIIA's eight key recommendations are:

  1. That the WA Government make the cabinet-level appointment of a Digital Industry Minister with a mandate to consult with industry to develop an integrated strategy over the coming 12 months that drives the modernisation of digital services throughout WA.
  2. That the WA Government continue to drive the development of online service portals for the delivery of both essential and non-essential government services. This includes an ambitious target wherein all WA state government agencies mandate the delivery, across the next two years, of key services to the public via a digital platform.
  3. The introduction of an open procurement process for government, which allows all public cloud providers, including local WA companies to compete equally. WA will have an environment of competitive marketing for public cloud services and a local platform for public cloud providers within 12 months to generate competition on price and quality of service.
  4. As part of recovery roadmap government looks at the opportunities presented by digital technology, both in new projects and integrated within existing project commitments.
  5. That in 2021/22 the WA Government ensures that major spending initiatives include a commitment towards digital capability. The inclusion of a digital taskforce for the MetroNet project is an example of this approach.
  6. That the government review the state payroll taxation framework, acknowledging both the positives and negatives of our taxation system, with the goal of securing a system that works to foster an enabling environment for local businesses.
  7. The WA Government makes it a priority in 2021/22 to work with the AIIA on an industry engagement program designed to create a pipeline of digital industry initiatives in support of regional growth and economic diversification within WA. A focus of this program can be the roll out of digital Skills Hubs to drive workforce participation in regional communities.
  8. In response to the forecast growth in the workforce, AIIA is keen to build on the existing positive relationships in terms of ensuring that training support has the appropriate focus on digital technology, cyber security, and data science.

The AIIA recently released a white paper titled Building Australia’s Digital Future in a Post-COVID World, which emphasised the need to look beyond traditional infrastructure investment by government with more focus on technology infrastructure.

www.aiia.com.au

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THE Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA), the peak representative body for Australia’s information and communication technology (ICT) industry, has announced a new 2021 board of directors composition featuring diverse and influential executive leaders within the ICT sector. 

Continuing AIIA chairman, and senior Deloitte partner, Robert Hillard said the AIIA board oversees all AIIA operations, develops the AIIA National Business Plan, and sets the strategic direction of the association. Mr Hillard continues as AIIA chairman, having served on the AIIA’s board for two years following an earlier three-year term.

“The AIIA’s new board of directors bring to the table a truly impressive and diverse range of specialisations, skills, perspectives and a wealth of experiences,” Mr Hillard said. “I’m proud to welcome the newest members to the AIIA board and thank the ongoing support of our continuing and outgoing board members.

“We have a range of highly experienced individuals joining the board who I’m sure will make a strong impact. Together, our aim is to stimulate and grow the digital ecosystem in Australia.”  

Senior executive company leaders within the technology industry, Dell’s Angela Fox and Information Professionals’ Mark Nicholls were successful in the national election and are reappointed as deputy chairs.

ICT industry specialist and CEO Stuart Althaus, of SME Gateway, now joins the AIIA board as treasurer. Existing board member Matt Codrington, managing director at Lenovo, has also been re-appointed to the board.

Additionally, Mr Hillard said, the AIIA board “proudly reflects the association’s commitment to improving gender diversity in the tech industry” with a third of the seats now held by leading women in the industry.

Katrina Troughton, IBM’s first female managing director, joins the board alongside Elizabeth Whitelock, CEO of human-centred AI company, Houston We Have.

Bringing her deep technology, business and operational expertise Lynette Clunies-Ross, CEO at SAS, joins the board as well. 

“As we look to re-shape our economy post COVID-19, Australia’s tech industry is in a great position to play a leading role,” Mr. Hillard said. “The AIIA will continue to champion our members’ needs and support innovative technology to lead Australia’s economic growth.

“The AIIA has had an incredible year of growth in 2020 with significant spikes in member numbers, superb entries for our annual iAwards and leading discussions on Australia’s ICT industry needs with all levels of government. The AIIA looks forward to building on these strong foundations and continuing to extend our strong relationships with industry and government,” Mr Hillard said. 

The AIIA’s full board of directors for 2021 are:

  • Stuart Althaus (Chief Executive Officer, SME Gateway)
  • Craig Baty (Principal, Data Driven)
  • Ken Boal (Vice President, Cisco)
  • Lynette Clunies-Ross (Region Vice President and Managing Director, SAS Australia and New Zealand)
  • Matt Codrington (Managing Director, Lenovo Australia and NZ)
  • Angela Fox (Managing Director, Dell Australia and NZ)
  • Rob Hillard (Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer, Deloitte)
  • John Ieraci (Chief Customer Officer, Telstra Enterprise)
  • Megan James (Director, Public Sector ANZ  at Dataminr)
  • Sharryn Napier (Vice President and Regional Director Australia and NZ, Qlik)
  • Mark Nicholls (Managing Director, Information Professionals Pty Ltd)
  • John Paitaridis (Chief Executive Officer CyberCX and CEO Technology Portfolio, BGH Capital)
  • Vito Rinaldi (Managing Director, Blue Crystal Solutions)
  • Karl Sice (Business Leader ANZ, Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise)
  • Rupert Taylor-Price (Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Vault Cloud)
  • Katrina Troughton (Managing Director of IBM Australia and New Zealand)
  • Elizabeth Whitelock (CEO & Managing Director at Houston We Have)

AIIA State Council Chairs for 2021:

NSW Council - Bridget Tracy, IBM Australia Ltd

Victorian Council - Warren Hill, Data#3 Ltd 

Queensland Council - Mark Nicholls, Information Professionals Pty Ltd.

ACT Council - Greg Boorer, CDC Data Centres Pty Ltd

Western Australia Council - Sharon Brown, Sharon Brown & Associates

South Australian/Northern Territory Council - Tim Chopping, SRA Information Technology Pty Ltd.

* The AIIA is a not-for-profit organisation aimed at fuelling Australia’s future social and economic prosperity through technology innovation. 

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THE FUTURE of higher education in Australia and New Zealand could depend on automation to help the sector recover from the ongoing impact of COVID-19 and adjust to government reforms.

According to SAP Concur managing director for Australia and New Zealand, Matt Goss, the higher education sector has been under increasing pressure on two fronts owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said the first of those pressures was to contain costs, after losing full fee-paying international students. In Australia, this has been further compounded by the requirement to comply with the new Job-Ready Graduates package announced in June. 

Mr Goss said as universities considered options such as increased access to online education, consolidation, and vocational education and training, automation would also play a key role.

“Universities can gain significant process and cost efficiencies by automating existing manual administrative processes,” Mr Goss said.

“These efficiency gains and cost savings can be redirected to drive growth and business sustainability for the organisation.

“At the same time, automation can also help ensure compliance, even as regulatory requirements change.”

Victoria University is one of many examples of higher education organisations that have achieved greater cost efficiencies, and more effectively maintained compliance, through automation.

Victoria University director of strategic financial solutions and processing, Michael Lapolla said, “The savings to the university from automation are one to two full-time equivalent employees. We’ve been able to redirect these resources to more value-added activities.

“Additionally, the university’s compliance processes are maintained within the system. All policies for expense, travel, and invoice are embedded into the configuration of the system.”

Auckland University has improved compliance and reduced the time and associated costs of manual processes from 37 hours to four hours. This has allowed the university to redirect staff time from administrative processes to faculty support.

Curtin University has also achieved cost savings and efficiency gains by moving to an automated expense management system, which has reduced claim errors by 30 percent and improved compliance reporting through access to real-time data.

“Automating just 20 to 30 percent of expense claims was enough for the university to achieve a return on investment,” Curtin University business solutions designer, Anita Treasure said.

SAP Concur’s Mr Goss said, “While higher education organisations need to consider the big picture at the macro level, it’s just as important to consider the low-hanging fruit.

“The small changes they can make now, easily and cost effectively, will deliver significant and sustainable gains for the organisation.”

www.concur.com.au

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THE Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA), Australia’s peak industry representative body for innovation technology, has welcomed the Federal Government appointment of Senator Jane Hume to the position of Minister for the Digital Economy.

Minister Hume’s appointment follows calls from the AIIA made in its white paper, Building Australia’s Digital Future in a Post-COVID World.

The AIIA had called on the Federal Government to appoint a dedicated Minister to drive a whole-of-government approach to technology, the digital economy, cyber strategy and execution – working closely with industry. 

AIIA CEO, Ron Gauci said the announcement was a strong step in this direction, to acknowledge the importance of ICT in Australia’s economic recovery.

“The appointment of Minister Hume is great news not only for Australia’s ICT industry but for the entire Australian economy,” Mr Gauci said.

“The AIIA has been campaigning on behalf of our members for the government to recognise the importance of innovation technology across the economy and today’s announcement fulfils this request.

“We look forward to working closely with the Minister in support of the Government’s objective to ensure we have a globally leading digital economy by 2030,” he said.

“Government at all levels has a once in a lifetime opportunity for major reform and restructure of our economy and society. The AIIA believes the road to economic recovery is paved with innovation and investment in technology.

“Innovation technology enables our economy to become more globally competitive, independent and sustainable. Now is the time for governments to look beyond traditional infrastructure investment and to support ‘click ready’ digital projects that will support the country for generations to come. 

“Today’s announcement signals the importance the government holds for the ICT sector and Australia’s digital sovereignty. There are many opportunities for the government to support the development of skills and Australia’s digital infrastructure.

“The AIIA looks forward to discussing with Minister Hume how we can support these very important issues” Mr Gauci concluded.

The AIIA is a not-for-profit organisation aimed at growing and supporting Australia’s future social and economic prosperity through innovation technology.

www.aiia.com.au

The AIIA white paper: Building Australia’s Digital Future in a Post-COVID World

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AUSTRALIA’s peak industry representative body for innovation technology, the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA), has welcomed the Federal Government announcement of $800 million in funding to support the digitisation of Australian businesses.

According to AIIA CEO, Ron Gauci, the announcement would see an investment in enhancing Australia’s digital infrastructure. This is expected to include the digitisation of the government’s business register, expansion of the digital identity system, support for SMEs to transition to the digital economy and boost business access to the 5G network. 

Mr Gauci said all of these investments were consistent with the recommendations suggested in the AIIA’s white paper, Building Australia’s Digital Future in a Post-COVID World.

“The Federal Government’s announcement today will support Australia’s digitalisation taking a leap forward,” he said. “Through this government investment, Australian businesses will benefit for years to come. The government and the Digital Taskforce must be congratulated for their work in this area.

“Looking beyond traditional infrastructure products and looking towards ‘click-ready’ projects will support the Australian economic recovery from the COVID-19 induced recession.

“The AIIA called on the government to build a digital backbone to help support our economic recovery with the launch of our white paper. We see today’s announcement as a strong step to addressing some of the recommendations the AIIA provided.”

The funding announcement follows recent investment by the Federal Government to upgrade the NBN with a further $4.5b to boost speeds and $1.67b in funding for the nation’s cyber security strategy.

Mr Gauci said, “This will bring great economic benefits to the Australian economy. It will boost the digital capabilities of businesses across the country and bring greater efficiencies and productivity benefits to the way government works. We’ll see this through the range of products and the services provided to the community.

“Today’s announcement is a big step forward for the continued digitisation of the Australian economy and we again must commend the great work the Digital Taskforce has completed in this area.

“While important skills shortages in key ICT roles remain, the government must continue work to address Australia’s digital skills to support our digital transformation and digital sovereignty.”

The AIIA is a not-for-profit organisation which aims to fuel Australia’s future social and economic prosperity through technology innovation.

www.aiia.com.au

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