For far too long Australia has been reliant on mining. We have seen it rejuvenate and decimate towns. When things are good they are great and when they are bad they are dire.
The thing is, the future of Australia’s economy is not mining. Sure, it will continue to be the backbone of this country for a long while yet, but we need to realise that the good old days of mining money are over.
There will always be money in mining, we produce some desirable natural resources, but there is only so much room to be at the top. When things take a turn for the worse, thousands of peoples jobs can instantly be wiped out without recourse. Lacking any other skill means you see some of the lower hanging fruit resorting to collect unemployment because they don’t have qualifications that allow them to do anything but work in the mining sector.
The future of Australia’s economy is technology.
At present Australia lacks the infrastructure to be competitive in the technology space. Sure, the coalitions NBN plan is coming along nicely and soon enough most of us will have access to at least 20mb internet speeds, but it is not enough.
It is a serious understatement to say that people only need faster internet to torrent Game of Thrones faster. Faster internet speeds means we can communicate with people outside of Australia without the audio cutting out every few seconds because latency is high and bandwidth is low.
As someone who has worked with US based companies many times, I cannot stress how painful it is trying to do a Skype call only to have it cut out every few seconds or needing to disable video to keep the connection stable enough to have a conversation. This is the reality of Australia’s aging network infrastructure.
We need to start teaching children more technology appropriate skills whilst in school (and outside of it). When I attended school the only tech related classes I could take were business and IT. The IT class was a joke, we created a tic-tac toe game in Visual Basic and created a simple website in Frontpage using the in-built assets it had like buttons (shudder). In the business class we learned to touch type and nothing much about running a business.
Even looking at university curriculum’s, I still see gaps in technology related education. There is no course for those wanting to be front-end developers, meaning most uni courses you end up taking will force you to learn horrible languages like Java.
Australia has a serious lack of incentives for those who want to go into a technology related field. If you want to be an apprentice electrician or builder, there are numerous opportunities and avenues to explore. If little Timmy wants to be a web developer, what resources does he have?
The current path to being a programmer or developer is via an expensive university degree. Some opportunities exist for youth to get a traineeship doing something in IT (not usually programming related), but it is not enough.
As someone who taught themselves everything they know without getting into debt, I think we can do more to encourage people like myself who have a natural curiosity to explore it further and be incentivised for doing so.
The government could also be doing a better job at providing grants, programs and guaranteed jobs for people looking to go into the tech space. Whether that is hardware, software or building nuclear reactor defence systems. We need to start encouraging innovation in Australia like we used too.
We have a vast country with plenty of opportunities to create our own miniature Silicon Valley or San Francisco Bay Area. At present the perception is to make it as a start-up, you need to go overseas. Every time a start-up goes overseas that is a lost opportunity (not only from a tax perspective) but also means no local jobs.
We need to make it easier for start-ups to succeed in Australia without leaving. We need to do more from an economy perspective to encourage businesses to setup shop in Australia (make it cheaper to register a business, easier to get grants and investment). Of course none of this can happen without decent infrastructure.
Australia doesn’t do enough to foster innovation, to encourage children and teenagers to explore technology related industries. The mining boom is long gone and we need to realise that tech is the future.