Governments promote and invest in science and technology to drive productivity for growth and jobs in the longer term. In this context, digital technologies have been the most profound enablers of the modern era.
Many of the impacts of digital technologies have been positive, replacing unsafe or low value work with the creation of adjacent higher-value jobs. However, many firms have failed to understand the impact of digital technologies on their core business. In most cases, businesses have been “disrupted” by new products and services that customers prefer.
Industries that are most ripe for disruption are those that have neglected to invest in the relationship with their customer base. This is why major corporates are investing in digital transformation strategies – to improve service and build customer loyalty in a society where a greater set of options are increasingly available to the consumer through digital services.
At the same time, governments are seeking to engage with citizens in more effective ways. Great economic gains can be made by better coordination of public services and this is typically achieved through the use of digital services.
How can governments assist businesses to prepare for change?
Traditionally, government innovation policies have focused on inputs (science and technology) and government levers (infrastructure, skills, regulation), rather than improving awareness that innovation is a dynamic feedback process driven by the customer and enabled by technology.
Repositioning innovation as a strategic response to a change in customers needs (or wants) will be important in raising the innovation performance and resilience of all businesses across the economy.
A heightened level of understanding of how customer demand will drive uptake of technology will also be important at the individual level as machine learning and artificial intelligence start to impact highly skilled professions. The proposition from some thought leaders in our community – that jobs in the economy may undergo major shifts every 5–10 years – is plausible. We need to prepare our workforce with the capability for such a scenario, even if we are not certain when it may arise.
Central to such preparation is lifting the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) proficiency of our society. This is why Federal and State Governments have a particular focus on STEM education.
In parallel, governments are acutely aware that rapid technological change can have social and ethical implications that need to be understood and managed as best we can. There is no question that the “future of work” will be a hot topic in 2017 and one that will require the input of a broad section of the community.
Lead Scientist, Victoria
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