Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Making a smarter economy

Glen BorehamGreetings from the National Press Club in Canberra, where Glen Boreham, Managing Director IBM Australia is speaking on "Towards a smarter economy". Glen started by explaining he would be talking about social, economic and environmental issues, as well as technology. He touched on the global financial crisis, water shortages and Australia's economic ranking in the world.

IBM has a "Smarter Planet" initiative, with at its core the idea that with more information smarter decisions can be made. I would argue that better information is needed, not more, but IBM is generally on the right track. Many of the examples Glen gave about using information for traffic congestion, electricity and water use require very small amounts of information and do not require broadband systems. Many of the examples would work well with a low bandwidth ubiquitous wireless network.

Mr. Boreham pointed out that the federal government is investing heavily in physical infrastructure in transport, buildings and utilities. These investments would deliver a far higher economic and social return with the application of ICT to optimise their use.

The Australian government, through AusAid, is funding Australian academics to help the governments and industries of other countries build smarter government and commerce. I suggest it would be a good idea to put some of the infrastructure investment into improving governance and business processes in Australia through ICT. This is only in part about technology, it is mostly about management skills in how to make effective use of the technology.

Even technology companies need to learn effective use of technology. IBM should lead by example by using smart systems, not just talk about them. Having the Managing Director of IBM Australia talk to a room of people in Canberra does not communicate the information very effectively. Even the live TV broadcast does not reach many people. It is disappointing that IBM did not offer any web pages or multimedia to complement the presentation. This would not be new to the Press Club as I gave the first multimedia address there in 1996 on: "Australia's 'Net Futures".

ps: Thanks to IBM for the lunch.

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