Nov 24, 2016
The Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) is the representative body and advocacy group for the ICT industry in Australia. For over 34 years they have represented 400 plus membership organisations nationally, including hardware, software, and services companies.
Suzanne Campbell, the AIIA CEO since 2011 chatted with Global Innovation Magazine about the iAwards, and what a typical day is like running such an organisation.
Q1. I’m interested in knowing how the AIIA promote innovation as a tool for development and growth?
The research in the area of innovation and growth is clear – businesses that innovate are more profitable (by almost 25%), three times more likely to increase the number of export markets targeted and 24% more likely to increase employment. This message is embedded in all our discussions, particularly in terms of how the digital economy is creating and driving innovation across all industry domains.
Given that ICT has a far-reaching multiplier effect across a broad range of industry sectors we have established an extensive range of Special Interest Groups (SIGs) for members that specifically focus on driving awareness of the role of ICT and innovation in driving growth across these different domains. These include, for example, SIGs focussed on health, education, the environment, sustainability, financial services, Government services – to name a few. The activities of these SIGs and the input they provide to influencing broader public policy is key to our evangelising efforts to promote innovation (specifically driven by ICT) as necessary for future capability and economic growth.
Q2. One of your pieces of work is the smart ICT platform, can you share how actions under this banner are progressing?
Our Smart ICT Platform has been a great success. Since releasing the Platform – an industry policy positioning paper –in early May this year, a number of the issues we raised have either been explicitly addressed or the subject of positive and ongoing discussions. For example, in partnership with Australia’s National ICT Australia (NICTA), we have secured some $6m over 4 years to implement a national program aimed to address Australia’s ICT skills shortage. The program specifically targets young people from grades 5 through to 12 encouraging, building and supporting their interest in an ICT based career. Importantly, the program also involves the education and support of parents, teachers and career councillors who play a key role in influencing the career choices of young people.
Another key area of progress is in the debate around Employee Share Option Schemes. The AIIA has engaged directly with the current and former Federal Governments to review existing arrangements that effectively penalise innovative start-ups and is delighted the newly elected Government has put this issue ‘back on the agenda’.
While more work is to be done in areas like better measurement of the contribution ICT makes to the economy, the Platform has proved the effectiveness of a targeted, focussed approach on the issues that matter.
Q3. Can you tell us about your involvement in the Australia iAwards, and some of the highlights of this year’s awards for you personally?
The iAwards is Australia’s premier ICT awards event. With 25 categories the iAwards recognise achievements in ICT across all industry domains, showcasing the passion and dedication of Australian innovators. AIIA is proud to be the creator of the iAwards and sponsor and supporter of the program for over 19 years.
It is important to understand that the iAwards is an annual process that takes place across all States of Australia before culminating in a national gala presentation event. A key feature of the program is that members can participate in a number of ways depending on their interests and expertise. While the major area of participation is in the submission of a project for award consideration, members can also nominate to judge various award categories. In doing this we are both encouraging the development of ICT led innovation and, importantly, by drawing on the expertise of the industry to peer review applications, driving high quality and commercially competitive new ideas.
While I have to say there were many highlights this year, I will limit myself to a couple of things that I found particularly exciting. Firstly, I never cease to be amazed at the number and diversity of applications submitted by companies, organisations, individual entrepreneurs, research institutions and even students. In 2013, for example, some 180 applications were submitted with initiatives covering multiple industry domains and disciplines (financial services, industrial services, the resources sector, consumer services, education, health, government, sustainability, community – to name a few) covering new products and service development, research and development, innovation and entrepreneurial achievements. The breadth and depth of innovation in our industry simply astounds me.
Perhaps though, the one stand out was Yvette Adams winner of ICT Woman of the Year Award, who started down her entrepreneurial path at the age of 17 and has since started from scratch 5 businesses, two of which she has subsequently sold. She was hardly 30 years of age!
Q4. What is your vision for Australia in terms of its position globally in ICT
These days ICT is a game-changer. In my view, Australia needs to be at the front of the pack both in terms of how we all use and apply ICT and most importantly, as a thought leader in leveraging and applying smart ICT to improve national productivity, grow our economy and ensure we remain competitive in an increasingly sophisticated global economy.
To be a little more specific, I believe Australia has an enormous capability and very great need to leverage ICT to position itself as a leader in the smart services industry. With services contributing almost 80% of industry value to the economy and employing some 85% of Australians, combined with a stable political and reasonably strong financial environment, world-class research institutions, strong industry engagement and bipartisan commitment to ubiquitous high-speed broadband, there is a huge opportunity for us to develop our service capabilities for export and ultimately drive market growth, new revenues and new jobs. There is also a compelling need for us to do so noting the current net trade ICT products and services and the trade exposure for services.
Q4. Describe a typical day running the AIIA
My day starts early with a scan of various daily press circulars highlighting the top ICT news. This is important so I keep abreast of what is happening across the sector and also because it can be a good ‘bell-weather’ for the sorts of issues we may be asked to comment on, respond to or alert to our members.
My first priority is making sure I engage with our members, so I dedicate a lot of my time to talking with member companies and stakeholders about the issues that are affecting them, the concerns they have, their expectations of the AIIA, how we can better meet their needs and what specifically we can do to support their success.
We have a small, focussed and highly professional g team and it is important that I connect with them and that we share information, agree on priorities and work in unison to ensure we deliver value to our members and drive their priorities and the profile of our industry. We take our industry representation and leadership role very seriously so most days involve circling back with the team in one way or another to ensure we all have visibility of the issues impacting our members and that I am connecting our members with the people in our team who can best support them.
Like most people who head up member-based organisations, I also spend a lot of time thinking about how I can position the organisation strategically to achieve outcomes for my members in both the short and long term and in particular, how I need to respond to new and emerging business and digital economy trends that will drive the success of the organisation in the future.
There is a good mix of thinking and doing – an absolute essential to running any high performing organisation these days.
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