Technology | Innovation

Innovate or risk being a dig it up and ship it economy: Dr Ian Oppermann

“If we don’t innovate, Australia runs the very real risk of going back to just being to a dig it up and ship it economy,” CSIRO Entrepreneur in Residence, Dr Ian Oppermann has told a CEDA audience in Perth.

Dr Oppermann said the nature of work is changing, highlighting a recent survey in Queensland which showed that more than half of employees in Queensland have a flexible work arrangement, including working from home.

“The problem is if you can work anywhere, you can work anywhere…The sort of work that can now be outsourced is not the low level stuff. We’re now talking about more sophisticated software development, website development, business case development,” he said.

“It means the scope of work which is transferrable, becomes significantly greater.

“The thing about the digital economy and the services economy is that there is no such thing as the middle of nowhere. Distances shrink and everybody can be the centre of the playing field provided you have connectivity…and can connect to the outside world.”

Dr Oppermann said factors which will affect the future of work include growing populations, infrastructure technology and the digital economy.

“One of the main challenges we have is sustainable intensification. How can we move more people into cities, how can we grow more food, how can we do all the things we do today with three billion* more people (worldwide), with no more resources, unless we are innovating, unless we are changing, unless we are driving productivity,” he said

“One of the amazing things is that we (Australia) keep doing things in the exact same way. It’s like we are not changing with the times.”

Talking about the future workforce requires us to think about the future of work and how we operate in that environment, he said.

“The rest of the world gets the fact that low barriers of entry, low transmission costs, low transaction costs, and the ability to deliver from anywhere means there are some really powerful trillion dollar forces, which Australia really isn’t part of (as much) as it might be,” he said.

We need to “constantly innovate in order for us to survive in this vibrant digital economy,” he said.

Also speaking at the event was Curtin University Vice Chancellor, Professor Deborah Terry and SAP Vice-President Product Strategy, Gordon Zeilstra.

*Dr Oppermann said the world population is expected to grow from approximately seven billion people to 10 billion people by 2050.

Australia’s future workforce? was launched on 16 June 2015 and focuses on what jobs and skills we need to develop to ensure our economy continues to grow and diversify.