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Backing Australia's intellectual content

By Dale Spender and Lynne Spender - posted Thursday, 15 February 2001

Microsoft is not a product of University science and technology research and development. And Bill Gates, like Oracle founder, Larry Ellison, was a university drop out. Yet there can be no doubt that the multi billion dollar companies that these two established, are not only innovative and NEW ECONOMY. They are the commercialisation of a good idea. Like so many computer and Internet ‘applications’, they are the intellectual content of the knowledge economy.

Keep this in mind.

For the Government's Innovation statement 'Backing Australia's Ability' is an attempt to breathe new life into the OLD ECONOMY institutions. Traditional universities which have lobbied for more money, to do what they have always done, have had their efforts rewarded, particularly in the areas of science and technology. And so they should.


But this does not transform them, or launch Australia into the internationally competitive knowledge business. So despite the government’s intention, the question is: Where is the innovation, where is the new economy?

And where is the content – the stuff that makes your computer work and which you get on your screen - and which someone has to create? And on which our world now depends.

This is not to knock the government for trying to put things right. No longer able to deny the consequences of its drastic cuts to the knowledge sector, the government has been on a steep learning curve, seeking a face-saving solution. And there are some genuine improvements,

There is for example, the reform of the R&D tax concessions and a tax rebate for small companies. As well as the very sensible decision to allow students – trained in Australia - to apply for permanent residence, without having to go back home and jump through bureaucratic hoops.

Then too there is the online initiative for schools.

And while $34.1m (over 5 years) for online content sounds like a lot such a sum would not have gone far in the past equipping schools with books - and it won't even begin to meet the huge demand for digital content in the future.


And this is before you start to think about training teachers to work with the new digital materials.

But if we want to lure today’s digital generation back into science and mathematics – then fantastic digital content is required. Kids who have been raised on slick web pages and interactive games, don’t tune in to text online.

Moving from old economy practices to new economy ones, calls for a complete rethink. One of the greatest challenges is to see ’ideas’ as real and sellable; as the commodity that we trade in a knowledge economy. These days most of the workforce is being urged to be smart, to come up with ideas, solutions, better and faster ways of doing things. This is how good ideas can become products and services which people want to purchase.

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This article was first published in The Australian on February 1, 2001.

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About the Authors

Dale spender is a researcher and writer on education and the new technologies.

Lynne Spender is a writer and editor who is currently completing a PhD on digital culture and copyright law at the Centre for Cultural Research at the University of Western Sydney

Other articles by these Authors

All articles by Dale Spender
All articles by Lynne Spender
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