Australia’s peak digital industry body is celebrating 40 years with a bold vision

aiia, venture magazineAs Australia continues its pivot towards a high-tech economy, now is the time to think big, and the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) – Australia’s peak body for the digital ecosystem – has four big themes to unashamedly power our next era of growth:

  • Acceleration of Australia’s talent and skills base
  • Business adoption and integration of digital technology
  • The delivery of high-performing competitive infrastructure; and
  • The digital transformation of Government.

AIIA is celebrating its 40th anniversary, so VENTURE thought it was an opportune time to look back on the substantial role the association has played and how it’s leading the way today.

History of the AIIA

 Since 1978 AIIA has pursued activities to stimulate and grow the digital ecosystem, to create a favourable business environment for members, and to contribute to Australia’s economic prosperity. They do this by providing a strong and experienced voice of influence; building a sense of community through events and education; enabling a network for collaboration and inspiration; and developing compelling and relevant content.

Over its 40 years of existence, AIIA has been led by influential leaders in the Australian technology business community. These people have helped set the agenda for the ICT industry in Australia, while at the same time overseeing the work and directions of the association.

AIIA membership is open to all technology organisations in Australia. Once an organisation becomes a member, all its employees are entitled to participate in, and benefit from its activities, such as state-based events, programs, Special Interest Groups (SIGs), and activities nationally.

The goals and role of the AIIA in today’s industry

One way AIIA contributes to Australia’s digital industry is in its annual summits, which are a meeting point for industry leaders, ministers, government officials, subject matter experts, and media. The aim of AIIA’s “Navigating” series is to explore opportunities and challenges of technology capability to generate debate and action about how that capability can facilitate Australia’s continued economic prosperity and competitiveness.

In the 2018 Navigating Summit, attendees and speakers addressed the need to balance the role of new technology and the “human touch” to improve the efficiency and quality of government service delivery, what skills employees in the public sector will need, and how the sector will transform the way it operates.

AIIA’s iAwards program is Australia’s longest running and most broadly scoped innovation recognition program, promoting excellence in the Australian digital ecosystem from the likes of Google Maps, Atlassian, Wotif, and WiseTech Global. From the world’s first modular self-fit hearing aid to a virtual reality treatment platform for spider phobia, the 2018 finalists inspire other Australians to continue to develop ideas and further technological innovation.

Promoting diversity in digital talent

The AIIA places priority on ensuring that government and industry cooperate to help Australians upskill and adapt to jobs of the future. As such, the AIIA analysed the Federal Budget looking for signs of promise and areas in need of improvement and shared their thoughts.

The organisation applauded the Treasury for several measures with regards to the importance of diversity in STEM, namely: creating a Women in Science strategy; creating a Women in STEM Ambassador (who will promote STEM at schools); and producing a STEM Choices Resources Kit to address under-representation of girls in STEM.

The AIIA stated that it was pleased with the emphasis on Women in STEM but believes more can be done to facilitate investment in training and education to ensure all budget measures deliver on their promises. It believes gender diversity is important for the ICT sector, which is predominantly a male-dominated environment. Diversity is key to economic growth, and ICT leaders recognise that Australia must do more to hit these targets.

The AIIA was also pleased to see the Treasurer expanding the Entrepreneur Facilitator Program with the creation of a “Skills and Training Incentive”. This provides mature workers with the opportunity to update their skills. These workers are supported in their efforts to transition their skills, while employers will receive wage subsidies of up to $10,000 for each mature worker they hire.

Barriers to entry into the workforce should not be tied to age, but to skill. If a person can retrain and the Government supports this with a wage subsidy to the employer, our economy will benefit from an agile workforce. This measure ties into health and aging, into social service support and into retirement planning – it should be applauded” – breakout box

Pushing forward the adoption and integration of digital technology

AIAA explains that business R&D in Australia is generally below levels observed in other advanced economies

Without adequate government support, businesses could underinvest in R&D in Australia because the full public benefits of new knowledge cannot be captured by private investors. As ICT companies become increasingly globalised they will be encouraged to seek innovation incentives offered by other countries.

AIIA explained that Australia must encourage SMEs to invest in the development of their digital capability. The association hopes to provide a means for businesses to assess the progress of their digital maturity – by identifying gaps and opportunity for improvement.

At the same time, AIIA will pressure the government to develop informed policy responses based on the types of businesses and industry sectors lagging in digital capability, and continue to increase education and training for businesses on digital transformation.

“ICT is a highly mobile, high skilled labour-based industry and businesses will move their scarce labour resources to where there is better support. R&D must be seen as an investment that can prevent this brain drain”- breakout box.

Delivering a high performing, competitive infrastructure

aiia, venture magazineIt’s critical to have an infrastructure that enables Australia to leverage emerging technology, such as smart devices, automation and robotics, and artificial intelligence. AIIA continues to advocate for the fast track the rollout of the National Broadband Network (NBN) and support the expansion of Australia’s wireless market in 5G and beyond. The funding announcements for infrastructure spending that crisscross the Eastern states were welcomed by AIIA and will potentially ensure major economic activity and jobs growth.

Digital transformation of government

 The AIIA and Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) signed a memorandum of understanding in March of this year, demonstrating a shared commitment to the delivery of the Australian Government’s digital transformation agenda. It identified opportunities for the parties to share information and draw on expertise to deliver better government online services.

This was an important milestone, demonstrating the federal government’s commitment to accelerate its digital transformation, and leverage the best industry has to offer. AIIA’s members bring deep expertise, experience and intent. Australians collectively benefit from a government that works closely with the technology industry — large and small, domestic and global — to demonstrate how departments and agencies can maximise efficiencies and provide more compelling citizen services.

As government represents around one third of all technology spending in Australia, getting the best outcome possible through close collaboration is critical for everyone — government, industry, and citizens.

AIIA membership is open to all technology organisations in Australia. To find out more about membership, visit AIIA’s website at www.aiia.com.au