The Knowledge Economy.
If you’ve heard that anywhere it’s probably from a politician. It’s supposedly the industry (or industries) of the future. For Australians, it’s what’s gonna save us once the world runs out of interest in our coal and iron. For a developed country with rather high wages and cost of living, albeit with a highly educated workforce, it could be our last dash at a comparative advantage.
For a while now I’ve been wondering about the knowledge economy. Especially the tech part of it. You see, unlike any industry that has come before, tech (web 2.0) is location agnostic. There isn’t necessarily a connection between the user of an app and its creator. For example: the app I’m using to write this blog post, on my phone while sitting on the train in Sydney, was written by a Swiss firm. And I purchased it through an Irish shell company, of a Dutch subsidiary, of an American giant (Apple). It’s globalisation at its finest. Or, as a future source of steady employment and tax revenue for a nation, its worst.
The Australian tech scene is phenomenal. I hadn’t realised how vast and varied it was before I was commissioned to do a series for the Community Radio Network. But it’s also facing a lot of challenges. Number one being that we aren’t Silicon Valley. We don’t have all the advantages of decades of agglomeration: the billionaires, infrastructure and cache. How, then, can we count on this industry to underpin our economy? When an app maker has no direct connection to it’s consumers, what’s stopping them moving to a friendlier locale when the going gets tough?
This is the question I set out to answer in a ten part series on Australia’s knowledge economy. My colleague Ellen Leabeater and I interviewed entrepreneurs, investors, mentors, and politicians. Here is the first episode, the challenges:
As usual, if you can’t see the audio player head over to Soundcloud.com/JoshNicholas
(image: OTA Photos)