Tech focus ‘all narrative, no plan’ says Optus Business MD

Optus Business MD John Paitaridis has used his keynote address opening the AIIA’s conference on technology, innovation and the jobs of the future, to call for more actual planning to secure Australia’s future in the new emerging digital economy.

Paitaridis – who also serves as Chairman of the AIIA National Board – said Australia had a quality workforce. “There are Australians working in every corner of the world, as a nation we punch above our weight. But with a relatively small population we cannot afford to leave anyone behind,” he warned, adding that “as technology develops, and different skillsets are required, we must look at our existing workforce and up-skill, cross-skill, and re-skill our people”.

Paitaridis acknowledged that there was indeed much speculation and commentary in the press. “I see nodding heads here in the room… but it feels more like a narrative than a plan,” he said. “It feels more like commentary that’s sort of coming from various parts of our economy, or government, or industry leaders, rather than a structured plan where we’re all driving together.”

“At the heart of it, it’s the repetitive work being automated, not people. Innovation in technology is also helping – our farmers improve yield, reduce waste, pick weather; manufacturing in this country is evolving in response to consumer’s increasing demand for bespoke, customised solutions, products like personalised medical implants, functional foods and clothing.”

“We have to pick our mark in this country, focus on our strengths [and] evolve our industries for which Australia is already renowned and world class,” he said. “Why should we not be the technology leaders in mining, in agriculture, in construction, in financial services? This concept of jobs for life and the need for job certainty, they are concepts that are long gone. Jobs will continue to change, and the lifecycle of a given job is likely to be shorter and more uncertain as we look into the future.”

Paitaridis said that currently in Australia there are about 650,000 people employed in the technology sector – either in ICT companies, telcos, the software players, the hardware players, the IT companies, or in tech roles in financial services and insurance, across industry, across government, departments.

“By 2020 we’re estimating those 600,000 workers will be somewhere closer to 720,000.” Paitaridis suggested, given the fundamental impact that technology is having the economy, particularly in data, AI, cyber and IoT, that this number should be much closer to a million tech jobs in 2020.

To achieve this target, Paitaridis said we’d need to see new innovation, applications, new business models, and new and transformed companies. “What we need is a different mindset,” he added. “We’ve got to challenge the status quo. We need maker-doers, and we need to become lifelong learners.”

“Our education system, government, industry sectors, must develop new learning models that are adaptable,” said Paitaridis “And we also need to better plan for a future, knowing that it will continue to evolve and continue to change.”

Richard van der Draay was in Canberra attending the AIIA ‘Navigating technology and jobs of the future’ summit

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