In a digital world, what’s more important…convenience or control of destiny?

Our digital world delivers convenience aplenty. Email. Websites. 4G. 5G. Alexis. Siri. Cortana. Ask Google, Order from Amazon. Check friends on Facebook. Make contacts on Linkedin. Instant access everywhere.

It’s convenient.

But it’s a two-way street. You get the convenience. They get your data. And nearly all the “theys” are big.

Is that such a bad thing? After all, nothing is for free. There is always a trade off. Whether that suits or not, is for you to decide.

Organisations knowing lots about you can be a good thing. It can help them to help you. Companies all over the world are gathering data about you every day. In many cases, it’s to help them better understand your interests so they can offer products and services designed to help you.

But in many cases they are gathering data to help others as well. And those others might not have your interests at the top of their list. They will have their own interests. And their interests and your interests may not align.

Insurance companies, banks, debt collectors, telecommunications companies, scammers, credit card companies, IT companies.

And you won’t even know. Until an application you make is knocked back.

There is a good and a bad side to the new digital world. It is still early days and still time to consider convenience versus control of destiny.

The internet was created as a distributed network of communication nodes, so that if any one of them was destroyed in a war, communications could still be routed through the network.

It was created as a distributed network. Deliberately so.

Increasingly today, online services are being centralised and aggregated, with data being gathered in one place, for one big corporate or multinational. Deliberately so.

We appreciate the convenience. But do we really understand the increasing shift in control? For control of destiny affects us at many levels. Both today in our businesses and regions, and increasingly on into the future. Affecting us, our kids and grandkids.

Affecting control of destiny for a person.

Control of destiny for a company or an organisation.

Control of destiny for a country.

And control of destiny for the regions we live in.

To control our own destiny we need to be able to navigate and steer. We need to be able to see. We need to choose the direction we want to go in. And we need indicators of direction and speed.

Without measurement and decision tools we are helpless.

We all rely to a greater or lesser extent on government and non-government agencies, which measure things. In Australia we have the ABS, which produces research reports on many things. One thing the ABS measures is employment.

The figures that the ABS produces are used to justify all sorts of things – political commentary, insight and wisdom or otherwise, whether now is the right time to raise interest rates or otherwise, whether the policy decisions of a variety of government departments are working or otherwise, and so on.

Most of the time, people just accept these figures without question and get on with life. But there is a good reason to have a closer look at how these estimates are created and whether they are valid, misleading, helpful, hopeful or otherwise.

There is good reason to suspect otherwise. Roy Morgan spells out why this may be so, and it is worth reading what is said. Because there is a big difference between the unemployment estimates claimed by government and the unemployment and underemployment estimates from Roy Morgan.

Based on experience, I trust the Roy Morgan estimates. You can make your own decision.

Is it 5.5% unemployment or is it 9.8% unemployment? Is the current total of unemployment and underemployed close to 20% or not?

Because 20% is a problem, and in a digital revolution “it all joins up”.

An article in the Australian by Martin North at the weekend, suggests that mortgage rates in Australia are on the way up, because Australian banks raise 30% of capital from overseas. And those rates are on the way up and we will follow.

We also have a high level of household debt, with one million households experiencing cash flow issues and in mortgage stress (even though interest rates are at rock bottom). So what happens when rates go up, as they will this year?

Property prices are set to fall by between 10% and 20% this year. So it doesn’t take a great brain to work out what waits ahead for a million households later this year. And why the real employment figures are important.

Because steadily increasing unemployment and underemployment leads to less income, more debt, more financial stress, and then a fall and possibly a crash, as unemployment and underemployment continues to put ever more strain on households.

Employment, underemployment, wages, interest rates, mortgage options and household debt are effectively a house of playing cards, all connected and reliant on each other. Are playing cards in control of their destiny?

Add continuing digital disruption to that picture and the house of cards doesn’t look very stable at all. And this is equally true in the US, the UK and elsewhere.

We benefit greatly from agencies that manage weights and measures, facts and figures. Rather than stripping money out of the ABS, as governments have continually done, money should be pouring into the ABS so that we have a trusted source of information to rely on, providing signposts that give direction with reliable indicators attached – estimates, percentages and reports.

In the absence of reliable data, we are driving into the fog.

Control of destiny? For our country, I think not.

By default, the blind lead the blind. Financial advisors don’t have a clue. We are constantly advised to speak to a financial advisor, but who is advising us to do this and do financial advisors know what they are talking about anyway? Do they do their own research or rely on the same figures politicians use?

They use the figures the politicians use.

We already know that most “so called” financial advisors are little more that spruikers for banks – 80% of them. And a royal commission is about to look into that, because so much advice was biased and misleading.

What is the real state of the housing market? Real estate agents won’t tell you. The two major newspaper chains won’t tell you, because they both have a vested interest in “good news” stories on the property market, with one newspaper owning Real and the other newspaper owning Why are we not surprised to see so many positive stories on how this is a great time for property investment (always), and so few on stories warning of the impending fall (crash).

Well you can work that one out for yourself.

Now, why am I harping on about something so obvious as vested interest?

Because in a time of considerable disruption, we need insight, research and business intelligence like never before.

And who is gathering the data that can generate those insights? The wrong people and organisations. Woolworths, Coles, American Express, Amazon, Linkedin, Facebook, Google, Apple, Banks, Insurance companies and the rest.

Siphoning up data and information on everything that moves. To sell us things. And avoid selling us other things.

Measurement is an important part of the society we live in. It is inextricably joined to control of destiny. No measurement = no control of destiny.

The kilometre is a unit of length equal to one thousand metres. On the 8th of May 1790, the Constituent assembly ordered the French Academy of Sciences to develop a new measurement system. Why? To create a standard that could be universal, common, trusted and uniform.

This may seem obvious to us today, but standards enable trade. Standards enable trust. Standards enable measurement and prediction. Which is why it would be really useful to have commonly accepted, reliable facts and figures regarding employment and underemployment in Australia.

It would help us to plan and create policy. It would help us to make decisions.

5% unemployed = one decision. Close to 20% unemployed or underemployed = another decision.

40% of jobs predicted to disappear over the next 20 years. The results of our 50,000 surveys suggest that percentage may be a little low, with digital disruption seriously disrupting the businesses and organisations and even sectors that provide the jobs in the first place.

Which will seriously disrupt the expectations of children and parents in a school system still teaching for the disappearing world.

Current data and information is useful.

It can help in control of destiny. Of course, we can’t control everything. We may not even be able to control very much. But to control what we can control, we need to be in control of the data and information that pertains to us.

Now, much of the data gathered every time you use a smart card, a loyalty program, a website, a credit card, a social media site, a mobile phone is gathered by the company concerned based on a contract, that you accepted, either having read it in full, or most likely not having read it at all, but accepted anyway.

In most of those agreements, you agree that your data can be used to help you in some way, but also that your data can and will be shared with other companies and organisations for commercial purposes.

In many cases the company concerned will state that your data is now their data, because “your” data had been reconfigured, rearranged of reconstituted in some way to become ‘their” data.

The company may also state that your data has been de-identified before sharing with others, and that only the aggregated data is being used.

There is a huge industry worldwide that has evolved around the re-identification of data, using public, private, purchased and in some cases stolen databases to compile complete or near complete profiles of individuals and their “private” details.

The spooks do this and we kind of expect that. That’s just the price we pay for living in the 21st century. But most if not all large multinationals and corporates also do this every day.

Is this free trade? Is this shared value? Are you giving your informed permission on how you want your data to be used and under what conditions? Probably not.

Nothing is free. Every time you access a free service, you pay with your data. Even when you access and use a service you pay for, you pay extra with your data.

So if you are a small company or organisation, how do you manage control of destiny in this new environment? What is to stop Australia, its businesses, regions and individuals losing control of destiny completely?

We know that our data is being used by multinationals and corporates for their benefit. How do we ensure that both individual and collective data can only be used for individual and collective benefit – for shared value and for the common good?

This territory is now starting to be explored, but we are light years behind the spooks, and years behind the multinationals and corporates.

So we need to start catching up.

For individuals, awareness is a good place to start. Think about what you do, about what you take for granted. Are you making informed choices about how your data is used?

Data can be used for good and for bad. It can be used for our benefit and convenience or for our detriment and exclusion. Data is political. Data is geopolitical. Who, in which countries is gathering your data and aggregating it?

Do you trust American companies more than Chinese companies? Amazon more than Alibaba? And why? Think about it. Data is geopolitical.

Blockchain is an interesting technology in this regard. Incorruptible, secure, encrypted, distributed with an ability to embed smart contracts to manage identity, rights, markets, IP, privacy and permissions. Blockchain provides a mechanism for managing shared value and the common good in a region or a sector, just at a time when it is evident that we need it.

Collaboration and sharing is important, but the interests of individuals and organisations should be defined and protected collectively, so that collaboration can lead towards control of destiny for regions, sectors and the organisations and individuals that live and work in them.

Which is what led us to start working on projects involving blockchain in the RED Toolbox. It is a natural progression in managing shared interest on a collaboration platform.

The RED Toolbox focuses on collaboration across productive industries. It focuses on helping to build capability in sectors and regions. It focuses on the future of work and jobs. It is both a “think tank” and a “do tank”.

And part of the “thinking” and the “doing” is the exploration of how blockchain can help regions (councils and RDAs) take control of their destiny, when they are expected to do so many new things with smaller budgets, while still managing “roads, rates, and rubbish” effectively.

We have just started working on a project to explore blockchain use in councils for the benefit of citizens in their region.

Sign up to the RED Toolbox – – and join the Blockchain Projects for Councils group.

Read the post – How Blockchain can help councils – and let’s discuss.

And control of destiny is just as important for industry sectors. New challenges from technology, and new opportunities from technology are both destroying jobs. So over the next two months we are meeting with government departments, industry associations and corporates to explore how blockchain can help industry sectors evolve and at the same time protect the interests of everyone in the sector.

It is time to evaluate carefully the benefits of all “cloud” services including social media, and the pluses and minuses of use. Who owns the data created every time you use a service? Is the data being aggregated and shared for the greater benefit of you, your business, your council, your region and your country?

With Facebook, Linkedin, Woolworths or Coles. With Microsoft, Apple and your bank, credit card or insurance company…who is serving who? Is it really a shared value relationship or is it mostly one way?

Do the sources of information you use every day, have your best interests at heart?

It’s an interesting question. If you (and lots of others like you) generate the content, then who should share the rewards?

Social media platforms depend on content for visitors. For customers, business contacts, family and friends. You get the “likes”. The platform gets the advertising dollars.

The newspapers and media companies know what is going on only too well. After all they used to play the same game. Provide content (news), attract the “eyeballs” and sell advertising as a result. But the game and the rewards have shifted.

Newspapers and media companies still provide news, but a lot of it gets shared on social media platforms for free. So the newspapers provide the content and then get no reward for their efforts. The social platforms get the dollars.

So some newspapers respond by going more “tabloid”, sensational and “inventive” and still lose more customers every day. Real news replaced with fake and embroidered news.

And even more bizarre, the real news is then labeled as fake news by a president, and fake news is promoted as real in social media. Even George Orwell couldn’t have imagined how it would all turn out beyond 1984. Propaganda and misinformation on steroids.

In a world deluged with electronic information, who knows what is real or fake any more?

Interesting times.

Who controls your destiny? The moon and the stars? The seers and prophets? The politicians and the multinationals? The social media platforms? Or just serendipity?

In our life we have no choices at the fundamental level. From birth, we head in one direction only – towards death and we do it one breath at a time. What we do on the way is where we seem to have some element of control through decisions that we make or don’t make, though there are many points of view on that subject.

But if control of destiny is an option, then it is all about the decisions we make.

And the decisions we make require data, information, insights and conclusions. For us to make plans, make informed decisions and take the right actions.

In your life, in your business, on your farm, in your factory, in your organisation, in your region, who controls the data and information that informs you?

Are you actively involved in deciding how your personal data is used, and how its value is shared? Is your industry association actively involved in managing and protecting the aggregated data generated through industry software platforms for the good of members, regions and the sector as a whole?

For control of destiny.

Is your local council deciding how regional data across all industry sectors in the region should be used for the economic benefit of the region for today and tomorrow? For the common good? For the region’s good?

In a joined up world, considerations and decisions don’t stop at the front door of an organisation. The multinationals and corporates know that. It’s now time for smaller organisations, councils, RDAs, associations and regions to act as well.

Convenience or control of destiny? It’s your call.

9 issues we should address in 2018. But don’t just stand there…do something.

We face a few issues at the moment.

They are all connected, but usually people talk about these issues separately as though they have nothing to do with each other. Which is a problem of course. Because they are all connected in some way.

We have a jobs issue.

There are not enough jobs. And not enough well paying jobs. The “new” well paying jobs are only available to people with rare skills. And there are an ever-increasing number of low wage, contract, part time and “slave class” jobs. And there is deliberate fudging of the employment and underemployment figures for political comfort.

Real unemployment and underemployment in Australia is near to 20% of the workforce, which is a big issue. Thank goodness that Roy Morgan is doing a good job at keeping the record straight. Unemployment and underemployment is 19.4% or 2.6 million people looking for work or for more work.

We have an education issue.

We are educating for the disappeared and disappearing world. Parents are a major contributor to this problem. They haven’t yet woken to the “lack of work” and “changing nature of work” environment and continue to support school curricula based on their own personal school experience.

Teaching coding at school is not the sole answer. Promoting STEM is not the sole answer. Both ideas presuppose no real change in what “work is and what a job is” when traditional jobs and workplaces are both seriously challenged by digital disruption.

We must first clarify which workplaces will survive and what a job will become, then we may be able to create a curriculum that delivers for the new world.

We have a skills issue

Digital disruption is affecting all industries and business categories, but it particularly impacts individuals – all of whom have differing capabilities and skills. Not everybody is good at Maths and Science or English (brain). Some people have strong design skills (eye), some people have strong practical trade skills (hand). Some people have a mix of those skills. Some people have no skills. We have to support all of them.

We have a creativity issue

What can’t robots do? Be creative. We need to nurture creative skills, imagination and innovation more than ever before. We need to promote Art and English and History actively in schools and universities. We are doing the opposite.

We need to teach children to experiment, “try things and see”, launch and fail, launch and learn. We need to ask “what if?”

We need to ask hard questions more than any time in our history. Yet we are squashing questioning and creativity in our educational system. And in our political system. And in our media.

Free education sponsors experimentation, trial and exploring options. Having to pay for education encourages the payer to look for the likeliest and quickest return on investment.

“I need a well paid job to pay down my loan.” Just at a time when the very notion of a well paid job or finding a job of any kind is under threat. Wrong direction.

We have an inequality issue – the 1%

Given that 8 men now own the same wealth as half the world’s population, or the top 10% of the population now own 85% of the world’s wealth, we are creating a condition that is toxic, explosive and dangerous.

And we did this. Not God. Not Mother Nature. Us. Human beings. In fact our politicians did this.

Apparently “World leaders are concerned”. But concern has not yet translated into action. Big businesses and the super rich dodge taxes, using their power to influence politics and drive down wages. And 1 in 10 people survive on less than $2 a day. So it is up to us to fix the problem. There is a lot that can be done. We just need to do it. Which brings me to the next issue.

We have a leadership issue

Jobs are eroding steadily, moving from full time to contract, part time, freelance and “no chance”, and from high wage to low wage and wage slave.

As a country and collaboratively, we need to push back intelligently against this erosion. To give us time to think about the broader implications of digital disruption on society as a whole.

And this needs leadership. In the absence of political leadership, business leaders have to put up their hands. And all of us have a part to play. Leadership from behind, from below, from the sidelines, from anywhere.

But let’s do something and go somewhere, not just stand around talking.

We have a perception issue

The digital revolution is personal. On the one hand, it destroys businesses. It eliminates jobs. It shifts people from high wage jobs to low wage jobs. It challenges individual sense of purpose and value. It impacts councils and regions, and states and countries. It creates second-class citizens and digital divides. It’s seen as bad.

On the other hand, it offers easy access to information. It provides a platform for startups and scaleups. It creates new opportunities for high wage jobs. It helps small businesses “punch above their weight”. It connects, collaborates and integrates. It’s seen as good.

Two faced. The digital revolution brings threat. It brings opportunity. It brings threat to one person and opportunity to another. And the viewer defines the view. It is neither good nor bad. It is a transformational revolution that is changing the world. But we need to see it clearly for what it is.

We have a “response” issue

For us to be happy in hindsight (2030), we can’t just let the ”day to day” happen to us passively. We must manage this revolution sensibly starting now. It is a real revolution and its effects are broader and further reaching than we might have expected. And it’s happening everywhere, all at the same time.

But we are out of balance in our response. It’s not just jobs that are disappearing, businesses are. The entities that employ people, and offer the jobs in the first place. Whole industry sectors are under threat. And a few extra jobs in aged care and disability services are not the panacea to our jobs problem.

We have to act with vision and purpose. Collaboratively.

People only see their piece in the puzzle. “It is good for me (I can do my job better)… or it is bad for me (I just lost my job).

Like frogs in wells we experience a personalised view of the sky. And take action in our interest only.

Partial. Circular. Narrow. Parochial. Personal. Which is what you might expect.

But it is the wrong perspective. Action and response has to be national. Holistic. Universal.

We have an “overload” issue

It is an enormous revolution. Overwhelming.

There is too much information and human beings are good at doing “one thing at a time”. We have no time. We make no time.

Most of us have little time, energy or inclination to investigate and comprehend the full extent of the digital revolution’s disruptive impacts.

It’s easier to ignore it for now. Ignore all the “elephants in the room”.

We are only interested in “how is it going to affect me?” not “how is it going to impact my region, my country, my future, my kids, my grandkids?”

The big questions are for someone else to consider, but we are not quite sure who that somebody else might be.

That person doesn’t actually exist. Not in government, or commerce or elsewhere. This is something that can only be fixed collaboratively.

And nothing, nobody and nowhere is immune.

Though some folk think they are.

Let it just happen to us and we accept an even wilder jungle to live in. That seems to be our current strategy (if you can call it that).

Manage the change with intelligence and we can establish a new “digital agriculture” – generating new wealth and farming new value.

Can we do it?

We managed the shift to food security over 12,000 years ago, moving from hunter gathering to farming. With benefits for all.

We now need to do the same thing with technology, moving from “leave it to the market” to “manage it or rue the consequences”.

We have to manage the business of “generating wealth” and its distribution with intelligence. Action and reward need revisiting.

And Bill Gates, Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking have made it very clear what they think, with recommendations based on their unique perspective and insights. And they all worked hard to gain that perspective and insight.

There are too many things now connected, integrated and interconnected, for us just to let things happen.

Revolutions require governance. Intelligent design. Management.

There is a lot of stress and tension at the moment.

Job stress adds to the tension. Mortgage stress adds to the tension. One in six borrowers now face a real problem. And when you add Amazon, Alibaba, Uber, AirBnB, blockchain and countless software developments into an already highly strung, and leveraged business environment – and just let it happen – there is only one outcome ahead.

If a straw can break a camel’s back, what happens when you add a haystack of straws? Which is where it gets interesting, because Australia is not an island in the digital world.

Jobs and businesses go hand in hand. Businesses need to be profitable to provide jobs. If a business can install technology to become more efficient, then the overall cost of employment can be reduced. Payroll is often the largest cost for any organisation. So the equation is hard to argue with.

Technology in = people out. Unless the CEO and board decide otherwise.

More software. More devices. More automation. The current of change only moves in one direction.

It is time to push back. Or at least hit the pause and think button. To offset job erosion and loss, we need to actively support the growth and profitability of our productive industries.

Productive industries – agriculture, creative industry, defence, manufacturing, medical & health, METS, smart trades and tourism can spread and mitigate our risk and reliance beyond just mining and agriculture, important as they are to us at present.

Productive industries can all leverage the advantages and benefits of technology.

Thereby generating income and profit across a broader base than now. Thereby enabling CEOs to use that profit to employ people – buying time while we wrestle with the wider issues of disruption.

We need to convince CEOs that there is a social contract in employment not just a financial contract. Most CEOs understand this already, but we have to reinforce that view with support from the board.

The digital revolution offers long-term opportunities not just short-term savings for the next quarter bottom line.

Any fool can use technology to increase efficiency. Any fool can save money by letting people go. It is a smart CEO that uses technology to create a sustainable and profitable business, maximising the benefits for all partners in the organisation – whether board, management or operational staff

The knowledge economy requires people who are curious and imaginative, with creative problem solving skills, teamwork and collaboration skills, analytic and critical thinking skills, initiative and entrepreneurialism.

People enthusiastic about starting a business. People comfortable with moving from task to task and role to role, loyal to inspired ideas, meaningful goals and real vision. People with a fresh approach to what work is, whether it is with hand (trade skills), eye (design skills) or brain (thinking skills).

These people won’t arise by accident. We have to create the conditions to produce them. In our schools, our universities and our TAFES. And we aren’t.

The disruption is happening much faster than our response in government policy and legislation. We are still generating policy for the old world in education, job creation, employment, health, regional development, industry and export. In a joined up interconnected new world, we need joined up and interconnected policy and thinking. But government departments are not structured to create it or deliver it.

It is the biggest challenge we face as a nation. A joined up, interconnected revolution being addressed by slow, political cycle driven, short term, single-issue policy with an “eye on tomorrow’s ministerial headline and photo opportunity”. And most digital innovations are in cyberspace with nowhere to cut the ribbon or wear a hard hat for the television cameras.

In a joined up world, somehow we have separated the high speed, telecommunication infrastructure – the NBN – from the initiatives it would have magnified, enhanced and supported. We have separated the stage from the actors and the actors from the structure of the play.

It all joins up. If we want a cohesive knowledge economy “the knowledge economy story” must be told, “the play” must be written. The acting parts must be defined and the show must go on. And this needs policy.

And we need action.

Which is what the RED Toolbox – supports.

The RED toolbox is a collaboration platform for regions, RDAs, councils and other organisations to share insights, ideas and activities. So if you aren’t already a partner, then become one.

It is a place created for discussion and action for those interested in both those things. And now that 2018 has begun, you are invited to sign up and make a contribution.

The elephants in the room, outside the door, lining up down the street and flying in by jumbo jets are all being ignored at the moment, in favour of easier issues to address.

Which is not unusual. It is always easier to deal with the problem pile, one small problem at a time and leave the bigger problems till later (ie never get around to them). It’s loosely called “human nature” though that is not really an apt description.

Which is why we have to start lining these issues up in parallel, which would also help us to understand their connected nature.

The ‘wicked problems” all require collaboration. Nobody has all the answers. But collaboratively we do.

Which is why we have collaborated with people like Stephen Alexander to include his “Can it work? “ methodology to better define problems and solutions.

Why we have collaborated with ConsenSys to work on blockchain solutions. Why we are collaborating with councils, RDAs, SEGRA, CSIRO and a host of others.

Why we are creating a library of projects that can be shared and copied. Why we are reaching out to business leaders, not –for-profits and others to come on board.

Because we appreciate the digital world is “all joined up”.

So WE need to get on with it. And take action.

And WE can get on with it. Human beings are pretty capable once they get lined up properly. It’s all the dithering about with the small issues, which is the problem.

So become a Toolbox partner today –

Join Groups and discuss business. Collaborate and share ideas and projects. But don’t just stand there, do something.

It’s 2018. Time for startups, scaleups, productive industries and jobs

It seems obvious that we should be focussing our limited national resources and economic energy into supporting and enhancing our productive industries – the industries that can support jobs, pay higher wages, generate more exports, build a sustainable future and so on.

We are a rich country. But we need to manage that wealth of resources better than we do today. We have extractive industries aplenty and a good job too…or we would be much worse off than we are.

Our productive industries – agriculture, creative industries, defence, ICT, manufacturing, medical and health, METS, smart trades and tourism can all be expanded, and value added to collectively create a sustainable platform for the future.

We also have service industries though some of them do a very poor job servicing and supporting our productive industries eg – the banks that should be providing investment to SMEs don’t, and are about to spend a heap of money telling us otherwise. Money they should be channelling into supporting productive industries.

And we have a small number of parasitic industries that extract wealth from wallets and purses rather than generate wealth and health for the country. You can work out who they are for yourselves.

In fact, Australians lose more than $11.4 billion a year on the pokies, so if we nationalised the pokies, we could clear our budget deficit in just three years.

Every industry across the planet is being impacted by the digital revolution. Automation, computerisation and robotisation are stripping jobs out of the economy at an ever-increasing pace.

Predictions are that 40% of jobs will disappear from the economy over the next ten years, though there are already signs that it could be a much higher percentage than that.

People with high-level insight into the tech sector, like Bill Gates, Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking have all commented regarding the speed of this change, and its likely impact on the society we live in.

Most people see what is happening in their own back yard, but don’t look over the fence. Digital disruption is widespread, worldwide and now includes every industry sector. Nobody has escaped.

Even the protected spaces of government employment are being impacted by digital disruption, though many governments are choosing to maintain business as usual, rather than add more fuel to the ever increasing number of people unemployed or underemployed.

Household debt figures are higher than they have ever been. So there is very little protective buffer for when interest rates rise again.

The true unemployment figures are groomed to hide the truth. Visit Roy Morgan Research for a simple explanation of why the employment figures are consistently misleading.

Unemployment figures can be fiddled and fudged. Underemployment, part time employment, contract employment, freelance employment, occasional employment and non-participation are where the problematic figures continue to climb.

The percentages just keep going up, month after month, year after year. Which inevitably leads to the resulting drop in household income, increased household debt and a generally frugal approach to shopping.

It all joins up. And this trend is only moving in one direction. Because digital technology is destroying jobs.

It is also creating jobs of course, but far fewer than it is destroying.

The jobs that are being created generally require new high-level skills, higher education and versatility. Not for everyone.

And if you have spent a working life in academia, corporate or government and find yourself prematurely out of work (40+) in this new environment, where do you go, what do you do, who do you turn to? Centrelink? Linkedin? Family? Friends?

This is the place more people are finding themselves, alone and confused, with no training, experience or connections to manage this new condition. It wasn’t like this when they entered the workforce. Who would have imagined things would change so much in such a short time?

And a mixture of digital disruption and ageism is hitting people of both sexes over the age of 45. Ageism is rife, not just in our country but across most of the world. And nobody is doing anything about it. Age Discrimination Commissioner. Another commissioner with no teeth is no solution.

Many of the jobs that are being eliminated are the historic entry-level jobs for the less skilled, and less well educated members of our society. The jobs that used to provide entry-level training and an opportunity to understand “hands on” what a real job entails.

So there are problems at both ends of employment years – for young and for old.

And in the middle, even the traditionally safe territory of professional services is being hit as well. There are no jobs for life, no matter how well trained you might be.

Politicians are being knocked down like skittles as people wake up to the fact that it doesn’t really matter who seems to be running the country, they actually aren’t running anything at all. The multinationals are.

The change is enormous. We witness it. We talk about it. We hear about it. And we complain to no avail.

People continue to join the “dole queue” or whatever name you want to give to the place an individual has to go to deal with unemployment.

The support agencies don’t. Centrelink doesn’t. Displacement leads to confusion and despair.

We need to restabilise the ship of state. Money has to be spent on one side or the other – either supporting the unemployed or supporting productive industries that can then employ.

One endeavour is demeaning, non-productive and destructive. The other is constructive, empowering and supportive.

We need to start actively building a new economy based on our productive industry sectors.

It is good to support startups. But 60-70% will fail. Far better to support scale ups, those businesses that have stabilised and now have the capacity to grow and employ. 50% of new jobs come from scaleups. These are the businesses that should be helped with investment, grants, value adding, R&D and export encouragement.

These are the businesses that can be helped simply through better networks, connections, collaboration, information and advice, and enhanced channels to market. These are the businesses that will help us diversify and build a strong foundation for the future.

And we know who they are. Which is a real opportunity.

They are stable, over 5 years old and most have the capacity to grow and employ.

So is it better to invest in startups or scaleups?

It is better to do both. But currently more effort is applied to startups not scaleups, which seems misguided.

A quote from The Scale-Up Report on UK Economic Growth illustrates this point clearly, “Competitive advantage doesn’t go to the nations that focus on creating companies (startups), it goes to the nations that focus on scaling companies”.

There is evidence that shows scaleup companies help create high-quality jobs, which are exactly the jobs we need to support if we want a sustainable and “fair-go” country to live in.

There are five key challenges that scaleups face – recruiting people with the right skills and ambition, developing business leaders, selling to large companies and government and entering new markets, attracting capital, and accessing R&D.

Two of these are particularly problematic – capital and R&D. Banks won’t lend and universities are still only paying lip service to industry engagement at this time. We can do better on both fronts.

And also, we are pouring energy and money into startup support, only to see the startups with the most potential being wooed and encouraged to move offshore. Australian “innovation and ideas” is a nursery for the US, UK and the world.

We need to nurture our innovation and ideas here.

And that is best done by nurturing the collaborative ecosystems which scaleups depend on – the conversations, the networks, the ideas and examples of what works, what doesn’t and why.

We know what the productive industry sectors are – agriculture, creative industries, defence, ICT, manufacturing, medical and health, METS, smart trades and tourism.

We can identify scaleups. There are over 5,000 in the RED Toolbox for a start –

Now it is time to bring more productive industries and businesses into active, collaborative conversations. So if you are a business in one of the productive industry sectors, then become a RED Toolbox partner. Visit the About page and become a partner. Set up your own group for customers and suppliers and your ecosystem. Join all the groups that can help your business.

If you are a council or an RDA, then become a RED Toolbox partner. Create groups for your region. Share ideas with other regions like yours. Collaborate with other councils and regions in your state. Discuss energy, jobs, projects, water, sport, agribusiness and tourism. Learn from others.

If you are a not-for-profit or an association, then become a RED Toolbox partner and engage with other associations or organisations with common issues.

None of us can succeed on our own, no matter how big we may be.

Collectively, we can create a fertile environment for profit and jobs.

And collaboratively we can address all the wicked problems and issues, and turn them into opportunities and actions. Right now, in collaboration with partners we are looking at health, aged care, mining, agriculture, blockchain, export, tourism and jobs. Join the conversations and the projects.

2018 is here.

A new year and a new opportunity. So let’s do it.

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