Tuesday, 29 January 2013 05:22

CSIRO’s $40 million boost to the digital economy

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CSIRO has launched Australia's largest publically-funded research initiative focused on the digital economy.

CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) has used the Australia Day holiday to launch its Digital Productivity and Services Flagship program. CSIRO's tenth National Research Flagship, it is a $40 million research initiative focusing on the services sector and optimising the full value of the NBN infrastructure. The research is intended to create $4 billion local industry in digital services by 2025.

CSIRO’s Flagship programs are designed to focus national research resources in a particular area. Existomg Flagships include climate adaptation, food futures, wealth from oceans and sustainable agriculture. This is the first with an IT and communications flavour

The director of the Flagship, Dr Ian Oppermann, says the program will focus on helping Australia transition from being a predominantly resource-focused nation by developing and delivering more efficient and innovative digitally-enhanced services. "Australia is faced with the challenge of maintaining a competitive economic edge in an increasingly complex and resource-limited world," Dr Oppermann says. "Our labour productivity has declined from around 92% relative to the US in 1998 to around 84% in 2010, meaning Australia's economic prospects beyond the current resources boom will deteriorate significantly if the decline in our productivity growth performance is not reversed.

"A successful digital economy is essential for Australia's economic growth and to maintain our international standing.  The services sector represents about 80% of Australia's GDP, so if we are to help Australia grow, we must help businesses and government deliver services in new, faster and better ways.

"CSIRO's expertise in cybersecurity, broadband technologies and services science positions us as the key organisation to take on this research. While some of our work will be in labs, most of it will happen out in businesses and departments across Australia; finding ways to apply technology to improve the way they deliver their services."

Dr Oppermann says the program has the potential to transform a range of areas – from the way health services are delivered to the way banks manage their funds.

"For example, we are working to reduce hospital waiting times and identify bottlenecks in Queensland hospitals by predicting how many patients will turn up in emergency departments, and when.

"By investing in our services sector we aim to help Australia remain competitive in the global economy, now and into the future. We are looking forward to working with our government and industry partners to help Australia grow through the digital economy."

The Flagship builds on CSIRO's successful track record in health service delivery, logistics, finance and communications. The Flagship will initially focus on four key research areas:

  • Government Services– develop efficient and effective information use, government services and systems through improved decisions, coordination and customer centricity.
  • Commercial Services– with a strong focus on financial services, develop efficient and effective commercial services and systems through better use of capital and improved service delivery models and processes across supply chains.
  • Smart, Secure Infrastructure– extending and securing Australia's physical and cyber infrastructure, including the extension of wireless broadband services.
  • Health Services– improving the safety, quality and efficiency of health services for all Australians by delivering technology in partnership with all State Health Departments.

The Australian Centre for Broadband Innovation (ACBI) is also a key platform for facilitating new research projects within the Flagship. The goal of ACBI is to develop and test innovative broadband-enabled services, applications and technologies and their use in real world situations.

Senator Stephen Conroy, Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, launched the Flagship at an event in Sydney. The launch also featured a keynote presentation by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, in his first public appearance in Australia in 15 years.

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Graeme Philipson

Graeme Philipson is senior associate editor at iTWire. He is one of Australia’s longest serving and most experienced IT journalists. He is author of the only definitive history of the Australian IT industry, ‘A Vision Splendid: The History of Australian Computing.’

He has been in the high tech industry for more than 30 years, most of that time as a market researcher, analyst and journalist. He was founding editor of MIS magazine, and is a former editor of Computerworld Australia. He was a research director for Gartner Asia Pacific and research manager for the Yankee Group Australia. He was a long time weekly IT columnist in The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, and is a recipient of the Kester Award for lifetime achievement in IT journalism.

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