Data | Digital economy

Smart use of digital technology can transform the SA economy

South Australia must use digital technology to transform its economy, a CEDA forum has heard.

South Australia must use digital technology to transform its economy, a CEDA forum has heard.

Adelaide Lord Mayor, Stephen Yarwood, told the forum that in a future Adelaide, smart phone users would be directed to the closest, cheapest car park, could check their luggage on a flight before catching a fast train to the airport and keep tabs on the next available tram or bus.

"You will drive straight into the city, straight into the car park...  cars will come in and disperse into the places they are meant to be.... The CBD will be where the pedestrian is king because we are building an environment for people," Mr Yarwood said.

Already, the Adelaide City Council has the biggest free WiFi network of any city in the world and is working towards an immersive WiFi system, he said.

In addition he said, in a world in which cities must compete for knowledge workers, Adelaide would have to be a vital place, with thriving streets.

"If we don't keep young people in the city, we are genuinely facing an absolute crisis. We must promote entrepreneurism that will make it a vibrant, fun, cool place to be," Mr Yarwood said.

The forum, which also included Optus Business, Managing Director, John Paitaridis, Training and Skills Commission, Chair, Adrian Smith and Business SA, Chief Executive, Nigel McBride, heard that the digital technology revolution would be as transformative as globalisation.

To meet these challenges SA would need to:

  • Focus on up-skilling its workforce which lags behind other mainland states;
  • Integrate a digital strategy into business planning to meet consumer demands and gain a competitive edge;
  • Use digital technologies in a sophisticated way;
  • Transform transport to reduce productivity losses through traffic jams- predicted to reach $21 billion by 2025;
  • Promote business tourism by hosting conferences; and
  • Create a vibrant city that attracts and retains young people.

Mr Smith said South Australia would need to focus on training, increasing the participation rate and targeting those who are currently disengaged from the workforce.

This would probably require more than the additional $6.4 million allocated for adult education under the new Skills for All initiative, he said.

Yesterday's low skilled jobs such as train driving were becoming very highly skilled with new connectivity-based technology. One train driver working for Rio Tinto could be driving 12 trains in the Pilbara from an air conditioned office in Perth. This sort of structural adjustment would be a key challenge for South Australia, Mr Smith said.

"It is not a bleak future - we are in the process of changing and we are confident we will have the skills, but to do that we are absolutely going to have to reform the training system," he said.

"We have to move away from task-based training or occupational competencies in favour of problem-solving and adapting to new technology".

Mr Paitaridis said Optus'  Future of Business Report, which surveyed 500 decision makers in Australian public and private sectors, found digital technologies are transforming the way business and government interact with customers, suppliers, markets and workforces.

The report identified "staggering exponential growth" in mobile application downloads - including mobile websites and e-payments over the past four years. The number of mobile application downloads is expected to reach 25 billion by 2015, he said.

The report also showed 39 per cent of Australian organisations now offer social media applications to customers - twice as many as a year ago.

"If Facebook were a country, it would be the third largest country in the world in terms of community and what that means is it is forcing organisations to sit up and pay attention in the way they engage," Mr Paitaridis said.

Consumers - not revenue growth or cost cutting - are key drivers.

"Australia leads in some areas such as smart phone penetration... where we lag tells a more interesting story, (we lag) in sophisticated uses," Mr Paitaridis said.

"These areas of e-commerce, e-health, education, Cloud computing... we are lagging in this country so there is some opportunity for the Australian economy to lift our game in terms of technological adoption".