Australia Set to Capitalise on E-Business Opportunities

A national e-business forum today called for Australia to capitalise quickly on e-business opportunities and ensure the benefits are widely shared. The e-business forum recommended to the Business Council of Australia that it consider the best means by which these matters can be progressed in co-operation with the federal government.

The Business Council of Australia’s e-business forum was attended by the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Richard Alston, BCA member companies and private sector and government agencies.

The forum considered a draft report prepared with the support of the Boston Consulting Group for the BCA’s e-business roundtable. The roundtable was established in July 2000 to develop an agenda for Australia’s e-business future and to identify supporting strategies for industry, the education sector and government. Membership comprised Senator Alston and 30 business leaders.

The draft report found Australia had significant strengths in e-business, including:

  • High penetration rates of internet access and, on a per capita basis, among the highest levels of online shopping in the world.
  • Australian businesses have greater internet access than those in Canada, Europe and Asia.
  • A very well-developed backbone telecommunications infrastructure.
  • World leadership by the federal government in providing services online and facilitating the adoption of e-business.

Against this background, the draft report recommended the business community and the government pursue five priority areas to ensure Australia realises the prize from e-business: encouraging rapid adoption by corporates, small and medium sized enterprises and government; the use of e-business as a catalyst for innovation; the development of Australian e-business technologies and services; the building of the human resource base to ensure we have an abundance of people with relevant skills; and the development of world-class digital infrastructure. Security issues were also recognised as requiring urgent attention.

The chairman of the forum, Mr Scott Reid, said e-business was driving a fundamental and permanent shift in the way companies grow and operate profitably, industries develop and societies function.

“It is vitally important that we make sure business and society take full advantage of the opportunities created by e-business and the associated technologies,” Mr Reid said.

“In that regard, recent national changes to the capital gains tax and venture capital regimes were particularly important.

“As well the federal government’s Innovation Action Plan announced last month was a major step forward in advancing the national research base and will provide a significant fillip to the country’s innovation effort. While more remains to be done, the draft report of the e-business roundtable should be seen as a useful complement to the innovation statement.”

The draft report estimated a $30 billion prize for Australia and recognised we must do all we can to try to capture this.

It says that notwithstanding recent volatility in technology equities markets, technology continues to advance and e-business is transforming the way companies operate. It is critical that Australia takes full advantage of this to drive productivity and innovation.

In the short term, the BCA plans to facilitate the establishment of an e-business adoption index to help businesses compare their performance against best practice.