AIIA on NBN, collaboration, Australia as ICT leader

At the three-day in December, an annual trade event which brought together 780 delegates from 21 countries, caught up with Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) chairman John Grant and CEO Ian Birks for a rare joint interview. The pair spoke candidly about the challenges the Australian ICT industry faces this coming decade and the importance of accelerating NBN progress.

It's very significant because we've got about 780 delegates attending and more than 21 countries represented, the event that we're running is a mix of two particular streams, one of them is APICTA and the other is the ASOCIO ICT summit. We're bringing together, for ASOCIO, a lot of the regional business leaders, jobs counterparts in other countries around the region and through the APICTA stream we're bringing together a lot of the innovative technologies in the region. Put those two things together, and you give the opportunity for local business and local industry to network with them and collaborate with them, which is pretty powerful. It has been extremely powerful in that sense and the summit sessions that we've been running have been very interesting from all dimensions, from us being able to positively project what we're doing in Australia to other people in the region, but also very interesting from the point of view of Australians, John and myself included, understanding what's happening in other countries and some of the initiatives that are being driven in other countries, which is very fascinating and impacts on our thinking.

You can answer that question from two points of view. You can answer it from the region's point of view, where we would be seen to be very strong in terms of our current adoption and use, and very sophisticated in terms of that as well. We're seen to be, with the NBN announcement, the sort of economy that's well configured and well established. Because from our point of view, we look at what we've been told all the regions are doing and we sort of go, 'gosh -- we've been sitting back on our laurels for a while and we have to get motoring again'. Because there's just enormous incentive and enormous investment going into almost all the countries in the region we can see, albeit some from a GDP point of view are quiet small, but they're still taking what I would call extreme initiatives to get ICT going. Not only to get ICT and industry going, but to get the adoption and use of ICT going, and a lot of the investments and incentives are around high-speed broadband. So they're doing a lot of really important stuff to get their own economies more competitive. To me, I walk away from it saying that Australia lives in a very competitive world which is only becoming more competitive, a world which is being more and more globalised, and we are going to be one part of it and we need to really be working, I think, from our internal point of view, harder to position ourselves to be more successful.