Priorities in Australia’s IT Sector for the next Government (Part 2)

Brad Drysdale, Field Chief Technology Officer – APAC, Kong

In this, the second instalment in our special series on the state of the IT industry in Australia, we speak with Brad Drysdale, Field Chief Technology Officer – APAC, Kong to get his thoughts on “What our next government needs to do to address key IT business challenges currently facing Australia, regardless of which side wins the forthcoming federal election.”

What is required to overcome the current skills shortage that is causing pain across the IT sector?

The talent shortage that has been plaguing Australian businesses for the past few years is showing no sign of easing. For this reason, a new approach is needed for attracting and retaining staff.”

A business can differentiate itself by clearly communicating that it has a culture that promotes having a more flexible workplace. An innovative way to achieve this can be to move beyond having a bring-your-own device policy to a bring-your-own programming language, tools, or even platform.

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At the same time, companies embracing cloud and API platforms are providing an environment today where developers can be productive and focus on building real unique business value, in the languages they like, using the tools and platforms they are familiar with, knowing that the IT environment is built to support it all.

If staff can see that they will be able to use the languages and skills they prefer, they will be more likely to join, and could very well end up being much more productive.

Organisations also need to think more about using automation tools to free staff from tedious, manual tasks. This will improve both their motivation and their output.

What steps need to be taken to shore up the cyber defences of Australian government departments and agencies?

Governments can increase their level of IT security through the use of APIs to create links both internally and with external parties.”

An API-led strategy is important because the potential blast areas from cyber attacks are getting larger, due to the increased number of people who are working remotely. If a cyber criminal can gain access to central systems through a badly designed API on an external website, this could cause significant disruption.

They no longer have to go to the trouble of hacking through a firewall, but rather simply walk through the front door which someone has forgotten to lock.

Governments at all levels need to understand that the digital battleground is now just as important as a physical battleground.

Does more need to be done to improve the cybersecurity measures in place within Australia’s private sector?

Companies are now using APIs to expose core parts of their business and their products in a way which enables them to become platform companies. This opens up a whole new category of risk and security needs to be beefed up to support it.

At the same time, more investment in cybersecurity will need to be made by businesses that are shifting from having a physical presence to an online presence. It is particularly important for those businesses that are offering services from multiple different suppliers.

A good example is an airline booking site where, as well as purchasing a plane ticket, you can also book a hire car and accommodation. Those services are provided by external parties and their systems need to be fully protected by secure API links. It’s important to understand just what is required in this new API-based economy.

Do there need to be any further tax breaks introduced to ease conditions for Australian businesses?

I believe that, if there is going to be any discussion around tax breaks for technology companies, it should be linked to an intake of skills. This could take the form of government-funded apprenticeship programs or incentives for companies to work with universities and provide on-the-job experience for students.

Israel and Estonia are often cited as examples of smaller countries that have nurtured a thriving start-up IT sector. What does Australia need to do to join this list?

Israel and Estonia both have very well-established STEM programs within their universities which helps to build a pipeline of new talent and new ideas. They also do a great job of helping incubate these ideas into new startups by providing financial and business support. It’s these ideas that then form the basis for new start-ups.

Australian universities need to become better at incubating start-ups that have been built on the new ideas generated by students. They need to go beyond just teaching fundamental technical skills such as programming.

Are Australian companies investing enough in R&D? What should be the role for government in this area?

There will always be an argument that more needs to be invested in R&D. This is because the rate of technological change continues to increase and you can never be sure where your next competitor will come from.

R&D needs to be the lifeblood of every successful Australian business especially as the digital landscape is the new competitive battleground for every business.

Modern business depends heavily on the internet. Should the next government ramp up investment in broadband technologies?

For Australia, the biggest challenge when it comes to delivering high-speed internet connectivity is one of geography. It’s much harder to deliver a gigabit-per-second connection to someone in the remote outback than it is in central Sydney.

Those who suffer the most from a lack of broadband access are children in remote locations or those without access to reliable and usable internet connectivity, who rely on being connected to complete homework assignments and projects.  With the big shift to digital learning and the onset of a new wave of digital immersive learning, it’s imperative that every child has access to the digital resources and connectivity they need to learn and support the future of our country’s innovation. It would be very sad to think that some Australian children are missing out because of a lack of government investment in broadband services.