Over the past six months, we’ve been in close contact with Australia’s Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (DBCDE). As we’ve grown exponentially in Australia, Minister Conroy’s department has shown increasing interest in our leadership role in the uptake of cloud technologies amongst SMEs.
So it was an honour to be invited to attend the Prime Minister’s Forum on the Digital Economy in Sydney, where 40 business leaders presented to Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
Taking the stand, the first part of my pitch to the government was to highlight the opportunity to engage accountants and bookkeepers as a potential channel to reach and educate small businesses on the merits of cloud computing and the NBN. In the same way that Xero has been able to grow our business, I wanted to highlight the critical role that the accounting advisor can play in small business. Here is my appearance in the video (9 minutes) or you can watch the original full length video:
I then urged the government to increase investment in development of web services across the many government departments that small business owners need to engage with, rather than simply building compliance websites.
A report only last week from the Australian Chamber of Commerce & Industry on the red tape requirements of SMEs (Small & Medium Enterprises), confirmed that nearly half of all small business owners in Australia are spending up to 5 hours on compliance based activities each week.
The SME sector represents 46% of the nation’s GDP, so streamlining compliance through seamless data flows between government and business software providers like Xero could have a profoundly positive impact on productivity and hence Australia’s economy.
Finally, I urged the government to follow the lead of the NZ and UK in developing a Code of Practice for cloud companies. This is all about ensuring a minimum set of disclosures and standards to help raise the bar on providers in this space. Consumers and businesses need to have assurances about moving to the cloud. It is our belief that a government backed framework supported and adhered to by all industry providers would go a long way to seeing cloud computing in this country grow and thrive.
There was overwhelming consensus that the day was a success and that significant investment in broadband infrastructure is needed in Australia to ensure the growth in our digital economy and position us to be competitive globally.
All participants had an opportunity to have their say and the number of ideas and ground covered will pose a challenge to the government in using this to help shape policy. At the very least, they’ve now heard from industry.
Julia Gillard was engaging and often quite charming in her summations. At the conclusion of the day she highlighted four key initiatives that she believed were key takeaways that the government would need to act upon:
- Skills: The immediate need to address Australia’s skills pipeline in ICT and ensuring that we attract and develop more talent into this sector;
- Teleworking: Continued efforts to drive teleworking with the aim to have 12% of workforce teleworking for at least one day per week by 2020
- Cloud computing: Development of a comprehensive cloud computing strategy for small and medium business with industry and government participation
- Cyber whitepaper: The expansion of a cyber whitepaper that is currently in the pipeline to include more digital themes around education, skills and the fostering of ecosystems
From my perspective, the day was of huge value and offered real promise to the cloud computing industry in Australia. The Australian government is well aware of the “Cloud-First” strategy that the US Government has adopted and the dialogue throughout the day would certainly indicate that they are keen to find ways to better support the industry.
Xero will continue to be at the table to promote our views on how to promote cloud computing into the SME sector and we see a critical role for our partners in making this happen.