by Rebecca Merrett

How tech IP is going to put Australia on the world innovation map

Jul 02, 20146 mins
Cloud ComputingGovernmentInnovation

With natural resources drying up, countries should turn to their human resources and build innovative technologies that they can export to the rest of the world, according to speakers at an Amazon Web Services roundtable held in Sydney this week.

“I’d like to see $800 million dollars of software exports look more like $8 billion or $40 billion or to be something the size of the mineral exports. We need, as a tech sector, to get exports up there to that kind of level, which will be success in my eyes,” said Dean Economou, technology strategist at NICTA.

Economou said US company Unitrends’ recent acquisition of NICTA-developed Yuruware, which produces cloud-based disaster recovery software, is an example of how locally developed IP can have an ongoing impact on the Australian economy.

“A lot of people would say ‘isn’t it sad, another Aussie company brain drain’,” Economou said. “But what happened in this case was the team were very determined to stay in Australia, and [it was] in the US company Unitrends’ … interest to have a development centre here in Australia.”

Unitrends wants to expand into the APAC region, so a core technical support and development team is being set up in Australia, with the possibility of adding an Australian-based sales and marketing team in future, Economou said.

“This is an example of Australian IP that has been sold to a US company, but the US company is paying the Australian salaries and growing the team. This is exactly the kind of jobs we want to grow in this country.

“I would like to see this happen a hundred or thousand times more, where lots and lots of overseas companies say ‘we have really interesting market problems’ and Australia has extremely good people who are very well trained and a good output from our universities [who can help solve the problems].

“We can import the market problems from the rest of the world, and export our solutions.”

Read: Budget 2014 – Educations changes, research cuts a concern for ICT sector. How will these changes affect our ability to cultivate innovative scientists and technologists?

Economou said that working in a cloud environment is “pivotal” to being able to expand business overseas as it delivers global reach and allows companies to quickly scale up without expensive capital investments.

“When you build for a global market like that and there’s a global platform – in this case it happens to be Amazon – there’s no reason you can’t sell anywhere or no reason someone won’t want to buy or invest in you anywhere in any market.”

Read: You’re not as progressive as you think you are, Australia: AIIA

Another Australian organisation that is trying to put their technology on the world innovation map is software company HubCare, which connects families with essential care, education, government and support services. The company plans to launch an application that will allow citizens to connect to different government agencies through a single Web portal.

By around September 2014, users who opt-in to the HubCare application will be able to update their details and share documents and information across multiple government agencies without having to go through the same process every time they access a different service.

Users can also choose what information they share with which agencies. The application will link up information to feed through updates or changes to services that may affect the user.

“Instead of government asking citizens to come to them, we’ve got a gateway where government can go to the citizen. So the citizen enables their data, their identity authentication into any government service,” said Ruby O’Rourke, HubCare’s CEO and co-founder.

“We integrated at statutory and regulatory level to facilitate all government business in and out of citizens’ [portals].”

O’Rourke said she would like to take this technology international. “There is nothing like this in the world,” the CEO said. “We are creating an NFP [not for profit], which is going to become a sole identity authenticator with all government services.”

HubCare currently has a Web portal in place for childcare workers to report on issues such as child abuse and concerns about a child’s well-being.

“There is a huge hole right now with children slipping through the cracks because reporting doesn’t happen,” she said. “People are not reporting because the activity of reporting is onerous. So they have to log in to a government system, they have to fill in a whole heap of stuff and they have to get implicated.

“I grew up as a ward of the state, so I know what it means to be a vulnerable child and nobody knowing about it. I feel very passionate about protecting or enabling children at risk to be identified and helped.”

HubCare uses NICTA-developed machine learning capabilities to pick out children who are at high risk and need to be reported to government officials who can intervene. O’Rourke said there are many child care protection agencies that don’t have the resources to be able to manually determine high risk children.

“An enormous amount of human resources are required to do this analytics work. By having machine learning, we are solving a big government problem around a number of people they need to hire. In child protection, sustainability of staff for human intervention is constantly turning over.

“There’s a national approach to how you consider an alert on child protection. There are decision trees where if the child is showing signs of something then it’ll go to the next step to assess. So the technology is learning the decision tree. At the moment this is all done manually by individuals at child protection agencies.”

O’Rourke said there are more than a million individual users who have 100 per cent opted-in to the world-first system.

The data is stored in AWS’ cloud. David Salajan, director and co-founder of HubCare, said it uses 256-bit encryption, complies with Australia’s national privacy principles, is registered with the Department of Education, and is deployed across multiple availability zones for DR and high availability.

“All backups are performed using streaming replication, which means we can go back to any point in time. We use Amazon’s S3 and Glacier for storing this data. All data in transit and at rest is encrypted, too,” he said.

When it comes to potentially deploying the system in other countries, Salajan said AWS solutions are “highly replicable” and parts of the infrastructure can be spun up on the AWS management console within minutes, with the complete infrastructure provisioned within half a day.

Follow Rebecca Merrett on Twitter: @Rebecca_Merrett

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