There’s one language we need to speak in the Asian Century
For Australia to seize the opportunities of the Asian Century the Australian business community needs to confront an uncomfortable possibility – it may be the weakest link.
Australian business is typically sparing in its praise but never short of criticism of our national and state governments. Sometimes, we are so busy finding the negative in the details, we don’t support the positive in the big picture.
For example, it is time for Australian business to say the following: ubiquitous national broadband is an unqualified good thing for Australia and a massive opportunity for business at home and in Asia.
That is not even politically contentious. Both major parties and the Greens agree with the principle. There are arguments about how we get there.
Why does Australian business need to nail its colors to the mast on this issue? Simply because this is both the Asian Century and the Communications century. Our neighbours know it and will not wait for us if we don’t take a leadership role.
If we lack conviction in our embrace of the communications revolution we risk appearing dangerously complacent or misguided to our regional business partners.
Our most successful regional services export of the past 20 years, the education sector, shows how industry and policy pulling together can build a sustainable, regionally integrated export industry from nothing.
The features of our education sectors’ offering are quality, proximity and cultural sensitivity.
It has built on a supportive and broadly bipartisan policy framework that is responsive to the need for change.
Broadband transforms both supply and demand in education. You don’t have to move country to access the best educators any more. And more educators can reach more students from where ever they happen to be, even those not on campuses at all.
The broader Australian business community should look to education’s success and ask how the communications revolution is transforming supply and demand in its own world.
Forward-looking businesses are transforming themselves today – embracing the chance to move processing and data storage out of their offices to be replaced by pay-as-you-use cloud services; recasting their customer relationships; linking to international suppliers and clients more closely than could have been dreamed of a decade ago.
The big question is, can the Australian business truly say we are more forward-thinking and aggressive users of new communication technologies than the business community in other countries in our region?
If the answer is no, what have we got to show our neighbours that they don’t know already?
My experience doing business in the communications industry in Asia suggests they hunger for newer and better communications technologies.
If we want our ambitious neighbours to regard us as a leading partner in their futures, we need to able to speak the language of technology, and walk the walk.
We need to be able to show them that, as a rich and imaginative nation, we are at the forefront of thinking and of business transformation.
In the Asian and communications century, national boundaries will no longer be the things that fundamentally divide us. Technology will allow people to reach across them. But if we are not embracing the opportunities of technology, we risk being a different kind of island; one that is marooned in the past.
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