Economists must realise the business benefits of technology

Advancements in technology in the economy go hand in hand and economists must recognise the benefits IT can bring to the table.

That’s the consensus of a panel at the Australian Economic Forum in Sydney, comprising of the Commissioner of the ACCC, Ed Willett, chief economist from Macquarie Group, Richard Gibbs, Matt English from IBM global business services and Simon Edwards, head of corporate affairs at Microsoft Australia and New Zealand.

Economists need to realise the benefits of technology, said Willet, but they are often left unaware of the opportunities, said the ACCC’s Willet.

“There’s a lot more to the internet than just quick downloads and online gaming,” he said.

Macquarie Group’s Gibbs said a further investment in education must take place if technology is to advance.

“One of my big bug bears is that we spread our resources too thinly across tertiary education institutions,” he said. “With 22 major tertiary institutions across Australia, we have a relatively low standard when you look at the quality of that education.”

Gibbs said research and development (RD) is another area lagging behind and preventing greater technological innovation.

“We should invest more into external income and RD so we start to lead the way and seize the initiative. It’s not coming through and it’s particularly notable here in Australia,” he said.

The panellists disagreed about the National Broadband Network (NBN), however, with Gibbs opining that it won’t necessary provide the best solution for rural business.

“From an economic perspective, the tension lies between public policy. If one wanted to create productivity using the NBN, we would not be wiring up 93 per cent of Australia. We should be starting in rural areas. A superfast broadband network is not going to help farmers out in rural areas of Australia,” he said.

English from IBM, on the other hand, said greater investment in networks such as the NBN can foster greater economic growth.

“We’re talking more about the network of things. Networks and services can be used to give us greater ideas around our systems. There’s a lot of focus on wiring systems. The real value is the amount of information that we’re bringing together,” he said.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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