Experts Weigh In On Australia's Role As A Tech Leader

Looking over a crowded room at Sydney’s City Town Hall sat a panel of tech leaders including Liesl Yearsley, Gen George, Ben Wong, Angie Abdilla and Alex Gruszka. The panel ranged in specialisation but all had a common ground: technology. While unfamiliar by name, the topic the experts spoke about certainly wasn’t – the importance of technology and innovation within a global playing field.

 

 

The discussion was facilitated by American-Australian author Mark Pesce, who posed questions to the panel with a sense of zest and interest. You could tell that Mr Pesce had an urge to soak up as much information as he could from the tech experts. 

 

There was no time to waste as Mr Pesce delved into the first big topic, Artificial Intelligence. As founder and chief executive of AKin, Liesl Yearsley was the first to speak up about the power of Artificial Intelligence and stressed the enormous power it has on the future.  

 

“We’re not even going to know how much Artificial Intelligence is a part of our lives,” Ms Yearsley said.

 

“We don’t even know what’s coming and that is why everyone is battling for the human home.”

  

Ms Yearsley’s tech company Akin is developing a new approach to general Artificial Intelligence to autonomously solve problems and develop deeper relationships with humans. She is currently setting up Akin’s first ethical artificial intelligence lab in Sydney.

 

Discussion followed on from Artificial Intelligence to democratising entrepreneurship, womens’ role in business and Australia’s changing economic scene. I couldn’t help but agree with Alex Gruszka’s idea that liveability must remain at the forefront of local efforts if we want to see cities flourish into prosperous hubs for future communities.   

 

Mr Gruszka is chief operation officer of Start Up and works closely with the Australian Government to transform Australia through technology entrepreneurship. At the centre of Mr Gruszka’s approach is the principle that Australia is lacking in technological advances compared to other global cities. Currently, only 1 per cent of Australia’s economy is from the tech sector, compared to 20 per cent in the United States. Mr Gruszka argued that Australia needs to prioritise technology-focused initiatives in order to become a leading nation.

 

 “We have world class education, high talent but we aren’t converting that human capital into the value of our economy and that really puts us in danger of the future,” Mr Gruzka said.

 

In order to monopolise on technology, Ben Wong, cofounder and chief executive of Academy XI argued educational systems must work alongside the ever-changing pace of technology.

 

“We have to be lifetime learners, we have to constantly keep our skills updated…if we don’t we will soon fall behind,” Mr Wong said. 

 

With the talk coming to an end, Director of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, Jim Mckelvey, said Australian’s should take advantage of the fact that Australia is its own continent.

 

While laughter engulfed the stuffy Town Hall room over Mr McKelvey’s last comment, I couldn’t help but think about Australia’s technological role on a global scale. Is the tech-sector of our economy really only at 1 per cent? How come more people don’t know about this?

 

With the talk complete, I made my way up Druitt St to the train station. Walking along the congested street, I made sense of the amount of people on their smart-phones, completely unaware of their surroundings. Ms Yearsley was right, we really don’t know what the future holds for technology.

 

To listen to the City Talk click here 

 

Evangeline Maguire

Media and Communications Coordinator, Cities Leadership Institute  

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