Craig Thomler's professional blog - eGovernment and Gov 2.0 thoughts and speculations from an Australian perspective
I've worked in the online sector since 1995 in roles including founder, publisher, journalist, webmaster, marketer, channel manager, CIO, COO and visionary. I left the public sector in early 2012 to lead Delib Australia as Managing Director Australia and New Zealand. More...
John is, in my view, one of the most insightful and thoughtful people in the Australian digital space and I heartily commend reading John's other posts.
Ready, willing and able...
Most of you won’t remember the song “Ready, willing and able”, sung by Doris Day in the early 1950s. And that’s probably a good thing too.
But those three little words, sum up the main barriers to technology adoption that governments, corporates and vendors of all kinds have to deal with in engaging with customers for their products and services.
And those three little words raise some very big issues.
There is a digital revolution happening. But are we all ready, willing and able to engage?
First, are we able? There is a lot wrapped up in this four-letter word…able.
Do we have the capability? Do we have the infrastructure? Do we have the networks? Do we have the leadership? Do we have the education? Do we have the guidance? Do we have the support? Do we have the authority?
The simple answer to most of these questions is no. Not yet.
We still don’t even have the affordable, fast, secure, broadband platform that we need to operate productively in this new environment, no matter what Mister Turnbull might say. You can’t play the game well, if you don’t have a broad, flat, accessible, well-maintained field to play on.
The issue of fast affordable, broadband has been raised again and again, and still not enough is happening. Not in Australia anyway. Just compare our broadband speeds and costs with those of our major competitors.
And our young Australians are far less prepared for the digital revolution than comparable countries, according to a report released at the World Economic Forum.
The report by Infosys, found Australia ranked last out of nine countries for young people being confident in their job skills and feeling optimistic about their future employment prospects.
The report found young Australians were among the most aware of the need to continuously learn new skills, but only 16 % had a strong interest in developing skills in data science and analytics, 18 % had a strong interest in building mobile apps and only 19 % had a strong interest in learning how to code.
These results were the lowest of the countries surveyed - Australia, Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States – all our major competitors.
Just 3.8 % of Australian young workers wanted to work for a start-up, the lowest of any country. Not much entrepreneurial spirit in our young.
And why is that? Because our education system does not reward curiosity. It rewards curriculum.
And more than half of "the Australians” surveyed believed their education had not prepared them for work.
The report found young people in education or entering the workforce in 2016 faced, "the most turbulent, rapidly evolving labour market seen by any generation".
"The global economy is approaching a Fourth Industrial Revolution, driven by increasing automation of the labour market - enabled by rapid innovations in robotics, artificial intelligence and smart technologies," the report said.
So our kids have been failed by the education system and by the lack of insightful careers guidance, support and leadership on this issue. Not good.
We are losing our ability to compete. And we can’t blame that on high wages.
Blame sits fair and square with education and “the curriculum”, skills and careers guidance (the lack of it), the undermining of VET (the TAFE system) and general lack of support and leadership, which is just another way of describing abdication by government in the face of this “wicked” issue.
We are educating our children for the 1950’s, not the 21st century.
We are publicly setting “feel good, sounds good”, objectives – “innovation nation” – but not providing the mechanisms or the proper investment to achieve them.
So we certainly are not able.
But are we even ready and willing?
Attitude can be an even bigger barrier than capability, infrastructure, networks, leadership, education, guidance, support and authority.
Accenture says that just 2% of patients at top hospitals are using health apps provided to them.
Of course, simply having an app is not enough. Simply building an app is not enough. There are lots of apps. Are people ready and willing to use them?
Apps are fine if they are useful, reliable, relevant, trustworthy and safe from hackers and interference.
Accenture highlights the growing resistance to adoption in the consumer electronic industry with heightened data security concerns, falling demand for smartphones and tablet PCs and stagnant growth in the Internet of Things market.
A survey of 28,000 consumers found that nearly half ranked security and privacy risks among the top three barriers to buying Internet of Things devices and services – including smart watches, wearable fitness monitors and smart home thermostats.
Over half knew that these products can be hacked and result in stolen data or device malfunctions. A third chose to postpone buying, a third chose to be more cautious when using and 16% quit using their devices or terminated their service until they can get safer guarantees.
Add to that the ubiquitous information overload we all suffer every day, and it is hardly surprising that caution and reticence thrives. Attitude.
So are we ready and willing? Not yet.
There is plenty of encouragement from government and vendors but plenty of resistance from customers who are not ready or willing to play the new game.
Internet of things adoption is slow in the public domain.
The military have been pioneers with wearable computing, drones and network centric warfare. But the military is the epitome of command and control. You do what you are told.
In the public domain, adoption has slowed because of understandable fears about privacy, reliability, safety and security.
Who wants their house to be embedded with sensors and control systems that are hackable?
Nobody wants to return home to a house with the front door wide open, music blaring loudly and the fridge dancing in the living room with the entertainment system, vacuum cleaner, air conditioner, solar panels and water heater, all knee deep in water.
Cheap, mass-produced, insecure sensors in manufactured smart devices make this scenario a virtual certainty…though maybe not the dancing.
We will have to pay a bit more for reliable safety and security and a lot of electronics manufacturers jumped too soon, used cheap, unreliable, insecure “chips” and have muddied the water accordingly.
So consumers have a good reason to be unwilling. And if I am unwilling, then I am not ready. And if I am not ready, I will postpone.
There is no command and control in the public or consumer domain. I will move when I and ready and willing.
The opinions of an individual consumer gained through personal experience, flow into their professional and working life as well.
If I am not willing or ready at home, then this will influence my attitude at work.
There are many ways people can slow things down through not actively participating and they do. “I’m just not sure,” or “I am not convinced this is the best time,” or “the technology is still immature,” or “we should wait until the end of financial year before we make a decision”, is all it takes.
And those soft comments are not easily challengeable.
It is this attitude expressed by nervous individuals that remains one of the biggest barriers to technology adoption and use. A little self-education could go a long way to addressing this uncertainty, but most of these people have little or no time or inclination to do this.
So even if I am able (NBN and education issues ignored for now), I am still not willing or ready to move.
And there is yet another clash of interests now developing, generated by the “spook” agencies who want vendors to build “back doors” into devices, platforms and systems so they can identify potential terrorism threats, which then undermines the broader economic and social benefits that would come from the widespread use of trusted, secure, safe and private platforms and technologies spawned by the digital revolution.
Strong encryption is a key element that underpins trust, security, safety and privacy. Without it, adoption and use of many new technologies will slow and in some cases stop completely. Encryption and anonymity provide the security and privacy necessary to build trust.
And building trust takes time and isn’t helped by government actively promoting technology on the one hand whilst actually undermining the security and privacy of technology and individuals on the other hand.
These things do not go unnoticed and people are more than able to join the dots.
And vote with their feet. By standing still.
Add to that, widely publicised news reports of “white hat” hackers taking control of a vehicle on the road through the onboard network linking the 30ish different onboard computers…
Or breaking into a government or corporate network, or opening the locked doors to a smart home and it is no wonder people pause to think.
And then consider the greater threat of “black hat” hackers getting into the nuclear weapons defence (attack) network, or shutting down the cooling system in a nuclear power station, or shutting down water or waste water systems, messing with traffic lights, the electricity network or all of the above.
Or automating bomb threats to schools.
The risks grow larger not smaller over time, as state and non-state terrorists, criminals and alienated sociopaths become more knowledgeable, connected and effective.
And if governments can’t protect their own assets with all the resources they have at their command, then what about me?
The problem is largely one of perception. But perception in many cases is an individual’s reality.
And the reality is constantly being tested…day by day.
In a digital and social media age like today, any bad news spreads fast, and upsets and confuses the marketplace far more widely than ever before. Any mistake quickly becomes universal.
So there are some real and some perceptual barriers and hurdles to manage and overcome in this digital revolution.
Revolutions are never easy. And we are dealing with human beings not bricks.
Managing human beings is more like gardening than architecture or engineering.
The technology part of the revolution is all about engineering and architecture, but the human part is about trust, reassurance, education, explanation, sharing, collaboration and support.
So we can’t afford to be “cheap” with chips and sensors and security.
We can’t afford to be lax with governance.
We can’t afford to be cheap with the NBN.
We can’t afford to champion and support an education system designed for the industrial revolution not the digital revolution.
We can’t afford to promote digital technology and STEM, without investing heavily in our research agencies, especially the CSIRO and our universities.
And the cyber security growth centre for Australia can’t come soon enough.
We can’t afford to let our kids flounder out the door into a work environment requiring initiative, curiosity, flexibility and entrepreneurship, when we have trained them to shut up, sit down and do what they are told.
We can’t afford to waste the experience and insights of our older citizens by barring them from productive work, through the blatant barriers and blockages of a “youth” biased HR and employment system…notwithstanding the efforts of the toothless age and disability discrimination commissioner.
We can’t afford short termism. Period.
We can’t afford not to keep up with our major competitors. Or we will wake up one day to find the mine and the farm just weren’t enough.
We have to see that these issues are all connected. They all join up.
These issues are the treacherous reefs and shoals that we have to navigate successfully if we are going to sail over the new horizon of opportunity, and benefit from the connected, collaborative and integrated digital technologies.
Ready, willing and able?
We could be, but that requires more than a small change in attitude and action. It is something that only government can manage effectively and that means at least one minister (and hopefully all of them) has to do something.
Somebody and everybody has to act, regardless of election cycle, regardless of political persuasion, regardless of red, green, yellow or blue ties, federal, state or local geography…this is a non-partisan issue that needs addressing.
The song “Ready, willing and able”, sung by Doris Day was written in the early 1950s.
And our educational and job creation system is still reflective of that time.
We live in a time of multiple PR releases, statements, TV and radio interviews, social media conversations and talk.
But actions speak so much louder than words.
So as the song says, it’s time for government to “lay its cards on the table and tell us what it plans to do.” But then do it.
Legal Disclaimer This is a personal blog. It is not officially endorsed by the Australian Government. The views expressed are those of the author or originators and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Government or any other individuals or organisations.