You recently went on a Women Leaders Study Tour to Silicon Valley. What was its mission?
The first Australian Women Leaders Study Tour to San Francisco and Silicon Valley was arranged by the Trans-Tasman Business Circle, a strategic growth partner for the region's leading public and private sector organisations. The Circle partners to build strategic relationships, business insights and profile by developing customised programs for stakeholder engagement. A 35-strong contingent of Australian women leaders from various industries joined the study tour.
How was it unique?
It was Australia's first all-women tech tour to Silicon Valley. The learnings and insights aim to position Australia more effectively for the next wave of breakout technology, Artificial Intelligence (AI), 'new collar' jobs and machine learning.
The tour highlights?
Experiences from the high-performing tech companies in Silicon Valley such as CISCO, Salesforce, Amazon and IBM Watson, reveal several opportunities for Australia to improve its tech sector and seize future potential. We learned that new cloud, connectivity and customer experience technologies are driving the digital agenda. The future will be shaped by greater application of AI and machine learning and the impact of these forces on the workforce will be huge. In reality, the 'future of work' is already underway.
The future will be shaped by greater application of AI and machine learning.Samantha Martin-Williams
What is the #techforgood factor you witnessed on the tour and how is it relevant to Australia?
The long-haul flight spanning hemispheres made the famed San Francisco Bay area seem a world away from the Hunter. But what I learned as part of the Circle corporate executives diminished the distance and showed me the innovative '#techforgood' approach influencing the corporate agenda on the other side of the globe could easily be applied at home.
On October 29, the Trans-Tasman Business Circle, supported by the University of Newcastle and Newcastle Permanent, will host the Women Leaders' Call to Action Tech for Good for Australia - Regional event. Why has this been organised?
A key learning of our delegation is that governments and businesses could to take a coordinated approach to the digital economy. Regional cities could be the showcase here - regional leadership, a commitment to collaboration, sense of identity and innate importance of community may just be the secret sauce needed to address the issues. I believe it's well built and showcased regions - and indeed a world - in which technology and digital data act for good and advance our social, economic and environmental goals.
What initiatives will be launched at the event?
The study tour themes of culture, people and capability, AI for good, innovation and amplifying impact will underpin this first of its kind regional event.
How can these initiatives be achieved in the framework of government and corporate Australia?
One consideration is that policy and programs require adjustment to recognise the shift to shorter forms of learning and micro-credentials. An emphasis is also needed on the promotion of regional initiatives to kickstart regional customisation to address the issue. A reskilling incentive - similar to the R&D tax incentive - is worth exploring.
Second, SME programs (typically funded by government) could deliver free or low-cost access to short-form learning and micro-credentials around emergent technologies and practices driving growth and productivity. Such training could be run by a consortium of vocational, university and private sector educators. A focus on helping SMEs build their talent and confidence in embracing new business growth technologies is the goal - particularly relevant in the Hunter.
Third, we could create opportunities for consortia of vocational institutions, independent nodes, universities and the private sector to run focused reskilling programs to fill talent gaps. Such programs could be delivered across the country, cities and regions, targeting segments of the community that are being left behind or under-represented.
Why is this work important to regional Australia?
There is a business case for encouraging investment which generates long term returns to the individual, the organisation and the nation. Such incentives are most effective if highly targeted to organisations that already have a demonstrable focus on skills and capability development. It would align to skill gaps/ job shortages and 'new collar' jobs which require deeper and more technical reskilling in cyber, data analytics, AI, and software engineering. Such an approach would accelerate private sector investment in reskilling Australia and growing regional economies.
What is in the pipeline?
My personal goal is to promote regional leadership on this globally significant issue and build and showcase the capability of the regions. Indeed, as we visited US multi-national companies like CISCO, Salesforce, Amazon and IBM Watson, I could envision how the connectivity and customer experience strategies leading the way in the US were incredibly valuable on a regional level and how regional leadership had a huge role to play in adapting them.