Nigel Phair

Nigel is Director of the Centre for Internet Safety, University of Canberra and for nearly five years was the Team Leader investigations at the Australian High Tech Crime Centre. He has published two books on the international dimension of cyber crime and lectures widely at Australian academic institutions. Follow Nigel on twitter @nphair

At a time where public budgets are constrained and national economies struggle with increasing global competition Australia needs to remain competitive. Our capacity to create millions of new jobs to replace those lost in traditional industries, and, overall our future standard of living depend on our ability to drive innovation in products, services, business and social processes and models.

This is well recognised in progressive economies and is why innovation is at the heart of the Europe 2020 strategy. Innovation is our best means of successfully tackling major societal challenges, such as climate change, energy and resource scarcity, health and ageing, all of which are becoming increasingly urgent.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Business Innovation and the Use of Information and Communications Technology research (released in March 2011) investigates the hypothesis that there is a correlation between the intensity of the use by businesses of information and communications technology (ICT) and innovation. Innovation can include product, process and/or organisational implementation. The ABS finds businesses using more sophisticated types of ICT are significantly more likely to innovate.

Australia has many world-leading researchers and entrepreneurs but in a rapidly changing economy more must be done to build on our strengths and tackle our weaknesses, particularly in the development of ICT. Sadly, there has been an ongoing under-investment in our knowledge foundation, an unsatisfactory framework for research and development and fragmentation of effort, particularly in Internet security R & D.

By enabling closer communication and collaboration, ICT assists businesses to be more responsive to innovation opportunities and provides significant efficiency gains. A more strategic approach to innovation, both in organisational culture and societal leadership is required. We need an overarching policy objective, taking a medium to longer-term perspective, where policy instruments, measures and funding are designed to contribute to innovation.

The recently released Cyber White Paper discussion paper seeks feedback to enable individuals and businesses to fully optimise the benefits of cyberspace. A key point within the discussion paper relates to the digital economy presenting both wide-ranging opportunities for increased productivity and innovation across the Australian economy. However, business operators need to be aware of potential online risks, including the loss of sensitive commercial data and a loss of consumer confidence in e-commerce.

The online safety of governments, businesses and individuals needs to be addressed, because without trust and confidence online users will be unable to fully exploit the benefits of web-based innovation across the economy and society more widely. To achieve this:

  • Education systems at all levels need to be modernised in terms of ICT uptake and benchmarked internationally
  • Systems must be created to enable researchers and innovators to work and cooperate across state/territory boundaries
  • Access to government programs must be simplified and their leverage effect on private sector investment enhanced
  • Design and creativity must be better exploited to build security in devices and platforms

    We must all take responsibility for innovation while striking a balance between the benefits of the online environment and improving awareness of and protecting organisations and people against cyber threats. Governments at all levels must set out a technology innovation agenda proposing how this will be achieved.

    Until then, Australia will continue to lag behind its peers, losing valuable opportunities to innovate and reap the benefits of being fully engaged in the global economy.

Tags: ABS, economy

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