Technology, the essential worker

Ron Gauci, CEO of the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA)

We speak to a tech-industry expert to understand the essential role technology has played in ushering us through coronavirus (COVID-19).

“The best way for businesses to rebound beyond COVID-19 is for leaders to take the opportunity to find a new way to do things better and smarter, creating a brilliant new experience for customers and staff,” observes Ron Gauci, CEO of the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA).

These words go to the very nub of the matter when it comes to how we can rethink workplaces and redefine economies post-pandemic.

It’s becoming apparent that Australia’s $130 billion technology sector – which Ron tips could double in value in the next decade provided investment in innovation and skills is prioritised – has played a key role in our pandemic response. First, through the development of the COVIDSafe tracing app, and second, by helping multiple industries migrate to a ‘remote working’ model in numbers never seen before.

In the past few months, it’s clear many jobs aren’t as location specific as first thought. Tech giants such as Google and Facebook have even advised most of their employees to work remotely for the rest of 2020, while Twitter has told employees that they can work from home “forever”.

This isn’t news to Ron. But helping sectors make the switch to remote working can have teething problems, which is why his organisation, in conjunction with the federal government, recently launched a website, www.australianbusinesscontinuity.com.au.

The site offers businesses access to free tools, tech solutions and expertise when it comes to taking their businesses online where possible.

“Technology impacts every industry: never in history has that been more prevalent and relevant than now.” - Ron Gauci.

“As the COVID-19 situation progressed and self-isolation was being announced, we could see our members (small, medium and large businesses) looking to provide support as they did so well to those affected during the summer bushfires. With the support of the ServiceNow platform and their delivery partner Enable, the website was built and launched within a week.

"Since then, we’ve had many more organisations post offers of services, solutions and support that has been provided to tens of thousands of visitors. Given the challenges businesses face at the moment, organisations need to be able to find the right digital solutions quickly and easily: we’re pleased the initiative has had such a positive impact on so many.”

Ron isn’t a stranger to leading during challenging periods having been the former CEO of Federation Square, the Melbourne Storm rugby league club and Melbourne Polytechnic as well as holding executive positions at Microsoft and IBM. What, then, are his biggest lessons for our times?

“COVID-19 has taught us much about the way we have been and could be working,” Ron says. “We have the technology to work remotely, and, combined with the benefits that come with physically working together, we should be able to leverage the best of both worlds. This will cause organisations to reconsider the costs associated with working spaces and the opportunities associated with flexible working from home from a productivity perspective.

“As I’ve always said to my team, even prior to COVID-19, I don’t need to set parameters about where, when or how the job gets done as long as it gets done with the best possible result. This is our opportunity to create a new, better way of working. We’ve learned much during this pandemic about how we work, rest, play and engage: hopefully we’ll take those positive learnings and create a new norm.”

Entries are now open for the AIIA Awards

iAwards - The biggest pitch - Innovation Competition with a differenceSponsored by the Victorian Government, AIIA has also come up with a new model for the AIIA awards– or iAwards – which has identified and promoted innovators for almost 30 years. Called The Biggest Pitch, entrants will need to submit a three-minute video pitch to be in the running for cash prizes, access to business networks, funding opportunities and potential exposure to global markets. 

“With COVID-19 having such a devastating impact on small to medium businesses we felt that now more than ever, we needed to provide more support and create more opportunities to showcase innovation,” explains Ron. 

Judges will be on the lookout for technology that will make a real difference to people’s lives whether personal or in business, says Ron: “What significant difference can your innovation make to our world? Australia has always been a global leader in life-changing innovation; we’re looking for the next innovation heroes.”

Do you work in the digital industry? Find out more about the iAwards.