The content on this page and other DBCDE document archive pages is provided to assist research and may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. See the full archive disclaimer.
Developing Australia's digital skills
19 Dec 2008
Yes, we know you want to talk about filtering and we will be posting about it on Monday...in the meantime, we wanted to talk about digital skills—to fully participate in the digital economy, Australians need effective digital, media literacy and e-business skills. Web-browsing and email skills are not enough. We need to be able to critically interact with and create media in its latest forms and know how to use it to their best advantage. The Australian Media and Communications Authority provides a research program and other resources about digital and media literacy for those interested in more background.
In addition to digital and media literacy skills, e-business skills are important for ensuring that Australian businesses are well-placed to participate in the digital economy. A well-designed website with e-commerce functionality is a good first step. However, Australian companies need appropriate skills and knowledge to maximise the potential for their business in existing and emerging online environments. This may include search engine optimisation techniques and developing online advertising strategies. Media reports suggest that the next big growth area for content companies and advertisers is iPhone apps.
As Austrade explains, these skills are important to help Australian businesses realise productivity gains that the digital economy offers and to participate in new markets it opens up—markets in which their competitors might already be operating. Developing an online presence potentially expands a company's marketplace from a local area to the world. Getting it right is important.
There is a demand for greater knowledge about e-business, and this is an area in which a small amount of targeted effort can go a long way. A good example of this practice is in the Tourism e-Kit produced by the Australian Tourism Data Warehouse (ATDW). This is a series of 37 simple tutorials designed to equip tourism operators with effective knowledge about online marketing. According to the ATDW, there were over 10 000 downloads of the program within 14 days of launch.
What was the best way for you to learn digital and media literacy skills? What are the digital and media literacy skills that Australian households and businesses need to engage effectively online? How can e-business skills best be developed? What has worked here or elsewhere to boost digital economy skills in general?
Finally, we also need to ensure that Australians have the necessary high-level ICT and digital media production skills to compete successfully in the digital economy and to ensure that local industry can staff their projects locally, rather than outsourcing. Training in ICT and digital media production areas at vocational and tertiary levels will build capability to participate in the digital economy. Despite a recent downward trend in the demand for ICT employees in Australia, skills shortages persist in some areas. So why are enrolments in these types of programs declining? Why aren't tertiary students as interested as in previous years? What can we do to make high-level ICT and digital media careers more attractive?
Page 1 of 1 Previous 1 Next
SamD wrote: "In my experience teaching/tutoring at university, it isn't ICT and digital media skills that my students lack, quite the opposite. Teaching them to critically evaluate an article/policy/industry practice using something resembling rationality or logic, now there's a challenge!"
I'll second that. High school aged students already know much of what is taught in 1st year and even some 2nd year university classes on information technology and e-commerce. But many need to develop their ability to assess the veracity of information & sources, their ability to synthesize, analyse and develop coherent conclusions. [This of course is a generalisation as many students do indeed develop these skills well before entering university.]
Posted by MDofPerth / 22 Dec 2008 9:21pm / Permalink
"Why aren't tertiary students as interested as in previous years? What can we do to make high-level ICT and digital media careers more attractive?"
Well, perhaps you could give the current IT professionals the dignity of a cohesive response to their criticisms of your hare-brained censorship scheme....they might feel a little more relevant that way.
On the other hand, it appears you don't bother to answer questions from your colleages in the Senate, so why bother engaging with a bunch of geeks? The only thing they have to contribute (apart from keeping your "digital economy" rolling) is writing instructions to show Ministers how to connect up their set-top boxes.
Posted by Klaw81 / 22 Dec 2008 12:48pm / Permalink
I'm a German migrant who recently got his PR for Australia. I'm working as a freelance web designer and developer. Let me compare a few things to Germany, which in my eyes is a lot further ahead in the IT sector. 1) First off, the whole filtering thing is BAD BAD BAD publicity. Many teachers, parents, business people etc who are less familiar with the internet in general will use this as a reason to tell their younger ones "I told u so", meaning, they think they have a proof to be scared of what's happening in the "cyber world". Your filter works counter productive - big time. And it's a waste of money that you should rather spend on upgrading the things you mentioned in your post. 2) You should put A LOT more effort into supporting online/digital entrepreneur. I'm not only talking about financial aids to start-up companies. I'm talking about offering more fairs, expos and other industry related events. 3) Make broadband more available and CHEAPER! In Germany most people pay around 30 Euros to have a flatrate for high speed DSL and a flatrate for Germany-wide calls. (mobiles excepted). I'm currently paying 70 Dollars for my DSL connection alone and that is even capped at 15 GB! 4) Provide incentives to media firms to include blogs, social networks and other so called web 2.0 features in their media coverage and on their websites. If you listen to radio or the news on TV in the US, you'll notice that they heavily refer to bloggers and online experts in their specific areas of expertise. Where is the Michael Arrington of Australia??? 5) Recognise important industry leaders for their skills and experience: in Germany many start-up companies get much more exposure to media, public etc. They seem to be praised a lot more for their achievements which creates an interest by the public. On the other side, it would be nice to give people (like me) that develop and create IT a chance to be heard. Support IT events by sponsoring them, invite professional IT workers to speak at events with medium to large business owners etc. 6) This may not directly respond to your post, it's just an observation: there is a LOT more advertising for computers and software on TV and in newspapers in Germany. They only ads about PCs I see on Australian TV is that of DELL. Harvey Norman seems to be the only nation-wide retailer that offers affordable PC hardware. In Germany even discount retailers like ALDI offer PCs, notbooks, monitors etc. Since they started selling PCs pretty much everybody got interested in it because the 50 yo mum went grocery shopping and told their kids about this cheap PC offer... What I'm trying to say: IT hardware (that includes iPhones, Netbooks & all other gadgets) need to be a lot more present in the Australian retail and advertising sector. I dont know how government can help improve that, but most Australians still think that they don't need a PC and it's too complicated to get one...
Posted by Kai / 22 Dec 2008 8:39am / Permalink
I encourage Australian Government to include “end user content service provider” training module as a national curriculum to all students regardless of age. Furthermore, non-profit organisations should be encouraged to provide same service to its members and guests.
Posted by Ken Kadiroglu / 22 Dec 2008 6:58am / Permalink
With the speed of innovation, the most important skills for people to learn are how to be flexible, adaptable and open to change.
Teaching specific technical skills tends to result in graduates who are years out of date and require retraining in the workplace.
Even focusing on teaching paradigms is a risky business. We've seem new paradigms arise and co-exist or cannibalise existing ones in surprisingly short timeframes - much shorter than those required by an official body to understand, develop and present a curriculum on the areas.
Most important in my view is that students are provided with access to high speed internet, the latest computing technology and the tools necessary to use it to its fullest potential.
This is not the course being taken by NSW in their 'laptop' program - which will result in students having seriously dumbed down and disconnected machines, which will not match the power and flexibility they have with their home computers.
Frankly the twin poles of innovation and control do not play nice together, and governments and the school system must be prepared to allow flexibility and innovation into the classroom. Otherwise we will not end up with adults who are willing or able to support Australia to remain a highly developed nation.
Chain creativity and you chain the future.
Another important approach is to walk the talk. Demonstrate through government websites that the government is serious about an education revolution and empowering students and working Australians to innovate and adopt new technologies and approaches.
The Australian government has a highly risk-adverse and backwards looking IT sector, which does not support the goals of the government in encouraging Australia to look forward.
Where confidential information and privacy is not at risk, the government should be experimenting widely with new technologies and actively engaging the public to help the government get their use right. If mistakes are not permitted, innovation cannot exist. This sends a message that the government is about 'do what I say', not 'do what I do'.
Posted by CraigT / 21 Dec 2008 9:03pm / Permalink
Part of the problem as I see it is that the NSW Department of Education and Training with their over the top internet filtering is stoping people with interests in IT and Computing from learning more and exploring for themselves because so many useful sites are blocked on the internet. (e.g. some forums that provide help are blocked! Heck, once even a www.cse.unsw.edu.au site was blocked!!!) And for those that may not have an initial interest in IT or Computing, but blocking sites such as My Space, Facebook, Youtube, and millions of other useful sites people at these schools are discouraged from exploring technology.
Posted by Andrew Harvey / 21 Dec 2008 5:34pm / Permalink
In answer to :"What are the digital and media literacy skills that Australian households and businesses need to engage effectively online?" One of the key enablers for businesses, households, and agencies of government, is the ability to find relevant and only relevant information. This involves metadata management, which is universally woeful. Idiot Guides about metadata, particularly for production of content (including Hansard!), and enforcement within agencies, would be very helpful. (The Idiot Guides to the Spam Act are an example of a useful rendering of a complex set of regulations). Non-government organizations (including companies) can be encouraged to use a thesaurus of terms that is consolidated across governments, rather than the current practice of each jurisdiction creating it's own thesaurus. This consolidation might be provided in the first instance using RDF and associated products, prepared by agencies such as AGIMO and NAA. Of course, the big problem is with email - even though IETF RFC822 X-Headers can hold metadata (e.g. in AGLS/DublinCore schemata) with use of a significant prefix after the "X-", most email clients neither display nor allow entry of these X-Headers. Encouraging commercial and non-commercial providers of email clients to include such simple capabilities, then mandating use of X-Header capable clients (first within agencies, and later within large businesses) would go a long way to improving the integration (and therefore the utility) of all the disparate information created within Australia. I see poor metadata creation and use as the key disabler of the digital economy. My experience as an enterprise architect (including work in an agency of government) proves to me at least that our skills in this area are very suboptimal, and are often contrary to existing regulations.
Posted by David Bath / 20 Dec 2008 2:48pm / Permalink
I think you need to find new ways to encourage the transfer of IT skills. From an early age, schools need to be teaching kids much, much more IT. Starting out with safety and how to use the *current trends* such as Facebook, MySpace; as well as general web browsing and communication tools. Relevant, *recent* information is the key because these things change so rapidly. This means having teachers in place who really know their IT (and keep on top of it). Both a *new* breed of IT/teacher hybrid needs to be trained for the future, as well as enticing existing individuals in the IT industry to consider a teaching career (to cope with the now). Currently there's little incentive though, certainly not financial. I just had a thought though... if you can encourage (or train) more IT-savvy individuals to teach, perhaps they can double up as personal online nannies / monitors of their class pupils? They could build it into their lessons when introducing websites like Facebook and MySpace, automatically friending-up with pupils to oversee their future interactions with others (until a certain age). It might be nice if some of these social sites featured authorised accounts to monitor other users like this. Perhaps it wouldn't be such a good idea for other reasons (discussion required). Either way, the government is going to have to work *with* the IT industry, gain its support. I'm not going to mention what's damaging that right now because I think it's obvious. Another point on early online safety... there has to be a well delivered balance between promoting the online dangers and sandboxing/scaring children. We need them to be eager and interested. They need to be willing to explore and experiment with technology and the Internet so they develope those *unteachable* skills and a passion. Then as children get older I think they *all* need to start thinking / get taught about what goes on behind the button clicks, *how* Google performs its searches, *where* their username and passwords are stored, even what the limitations of filtering software are ;) - otherwise, they might grow up to be politicians! Hehe. There seems to be a new generation emerging that is very savvy at using popular social networks but uninterested in how they work behind the scenes. Teaching that might get a few thinking "How can I *create* a social network?" instead of "How do I *use* a social network?". Hopefully by higher education you have more teens interested in persuing an IT career. Then you need your "elite" to teach them. First those from academic backgrounds (professors of science) to teach the low-level principles, best practises and theories that apply across the whole subject matter. It's not just whether a pupil can develope an iPhone app *now*. It's about if they can self-transfer their skills over to other platforms in the future, such as Google's Android. You also need those from the (commercial) industry sector who can cover *current*, real-world scenarios. Ask one of them just 5 years ago (a little longer than a degree course) and they'd have been talking about data centralisation and tight control over communication protocols. Today, they're excited about cloud computing, APIs and embracing the social web. That's how much it can change in such a short time. Again, incentives are required to keep these kinds of people in the country and inside the colleges and universities.
Posted by Dominic / 19 Dec 2008 7:48pm / Permalink
SEO and online advertising are a *very* small piece of the online strategies Australian businesses should be encouraged to examine. I'm disappointed that they were specifically named here, as there is a growing belief in the online entrepreneur community that SEO and advertising based business models are outdated and unsustainable. Instead, I'd love to see a focus on innovative, sustainable methods that actually generate wealth. Ideally, the government should be looking at ways to encourage *new* ways of working online, not just taking traditional businesses, and slapping an e-commerce front end onto them. The opportunities granted by the web for small startups which can be bootstrapped for a low cost should be encouraged by government, possibly by more accessible and publicized industry grants and loans. Not all online investment requires large capital investment, especially in the last few years with the availability of cheap hosting, and mature, high quality open source platforms. It seems from this post that the usual buzzwords and vague hand-waving are still in vogue in Canberra. It is deluded thinking like this that caused the 2001 dot com bubble and subsequent bust. A blind faith in "just putting it on the internet" is not a recipe for success in the online world. It's lucky that there are talented, and skilled online innovators working in this country, as there seems to be little to no leadership from any level of government. (also, why is this comment form so small?)
Posted by madlep / 19 Dec 2008 7:28pm / Permalink
Basic literacy skills. People fall for all kinds of shonky sites which look terribly official to people who think cats should have an apostrophe. I learned digital and media analysis skills from observation, and the production skills from my 14 year old son. I'm teaching him improved basic literacy skills by helping him with his blog, and he and his friends are teaching me video and audio skills I'd have to pay to learn otherwise. Day to day stuff, like html, by asking people on blogs. How did I learn not to open spam and email attachments from strangers? Common sense.
Posted by Lyn / 19 Dec 2008 6:14pm / Permalink
They normally release all the best consultation papers just before Christmas.
Isn't that the truth!
In my experience teaching/tutoring at university, it isn't ICT and digital media skills that my students lack, quite the opposite. Teaching them to critically evaluate an article/policy/industry practice using something resembling rationality or logic, now there's a challenge!
I'm not sure what has caused the drop in interest in university ICT related programs, but I do agree that it has occurred. I always suspected that it was lack of demand for graduates. If there are areas where graduates with these skills are in demand, then this information needs to be conveyed to the relevant university faculties as soon as possible.
Posted by Sam D / 19 Dec 2008 4:41pm / Permalink
Why aren't Australians pusuing high levle training in Information and Communications Technology and in Digital Media production? May be it is because we have seen the job opportunities in these areas moving off shore where wages are cheaper.
One of the things that seem to have been missed in the Bloggs so far is that the digital economy is only a part of the overall economy. Government regulation and encouragement of this particular part of the economy should be no different than for the economy in general. It has to be the decision of each enterprise to what extent and how it will use the available digital opportunities to enhance its bottom line.
If the Government wants to encourage participation in the "Digital Revolution" then its role should be as a facilitator providing services similar to Austrade. They assist with introductions, identification of markets and details on foreign market conditions and requirements.
The digital economy doesn't remove the necessity for personal contact. If it did Microsoft wouldn't hold major conferences and trade fairs where people can meet face to face and build relationships.
As to Iphone applications yes there is a small market there but it is only part of the much larger mobile phone market.
Seems to me that you guys are hung up on buzz words at times and don't really understand this whole digital thing. Maybe the first thing we need is the people in your department to be educated and made to remain up to date on what is happening in the digital world.
Posted by Brownbear / 19 Dec 2008 4:25pm / Permalink
If you want to teach people skills about being online, thry hetting them to sotop sending chain-emails, opening ecards from people that don'w know and to stop opening attachments from people and companies they have not heard of.
need to ensure that Australians have the necessary high-level ICT and digital media production skills to compete successfully I think you'll find we have this except that our broadband is 10 years behind the rest of the world which meanse that while production is top-notch, the delivery is not-so-good. perhaps if the Telstra Monoply was finally brokenb up and we avoid the knee-jerk reactions with idiotic suggestions such as mandatory filtering...
Posted by Chaps / 19 Dec 2008 4:16pm / Permalink
@Dennis: You like many others are confused about who is at the oher end of this blog. This is being ru by the public servants, not the politicians.
They normally release all the best consultation papers just before Christmas.
Posted by Verity Pravda / 19 Dec 2008 3:59pm / Permalink
Yes, we know you want to talk about filtering and we will be posting about it on Monday Do I sense a tiny bit frustration? I mean, how dare we not behave in the the way the government would prefer! Luckily for me I have Monday off, and you can be sure I will be ready, as will many others with opinions that the Senator will not want to hear.
Posted by Sam D / 19 Dec 2008 3:52pm / Permalink
The majority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australian’s who live in regional and remote areas are unable to utilise the digital economy to fully engage with the broader community at both the cultural and economic level. The exclusion of so many Indigenous people from the online Australian community due to lack of infrastructure, but also lack of skills, is a matter of serious concern. It is disappointing that a platform with enables such diverse opportunities for expression and engagement is not widely accessible to many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Significant barriers exist including geographical isolation and related lack of infrastructure, as well as endemically low levels of literacy.
The interaction between the identified objectives of the Close the Gap program and the goal of developing Australia’s digital skills must be acknowledged and incorporated into any proposed solutions. Provision and delivery of appropriate training packages in the use of digital technologies also has the capacity to create pathways to employment for Indigenous people within the broader Australian community and should be explored.
One method of delivery of this training is via existing locally based Indigenous Knowledge Centres (IKCs). These IKCs already act as hubs for the Indigenous community and increased technical infrastructure, know-how and support is one way of enhancing Indigenous Australian’s capacity to fully utilise all that the digital economy has to offer.
Posted by AIATSIS / 19 Dec 2008 3:28pm / Permalink
One important digital skill, indeed an essential for the future of the digital economy is a minister and a bureaucracy that actually understands the impact of filtering and the nature of blogging. You propose to seriously degrade the speed of the Internet with a filter that will endanger children and protect only the political standing of the minister. A wiser approach to this dialogue would have been to engage with it rather than churning out blog posts based on deep research of the latest bureaucratic rah-rah words rather than understanding.
Posted by Alan in Sydney / 19 Dec 2008 2:24pm / Permalink
Oh I see. We'll wait until next week (Christmas) to discuss the Internet filtering - you know, when everyone is on holiday and there will be little objection.
Seriously, do politicians really think the public is this stupid?
Posted by Dennis / 19 Dec 2008 1:52pm / Permalink
Well developing the Ministers skills would be a good start.
You would thnk a basic udnerstanding of the internet and how it functions would be at least a minimum requirement for the individual enforcing his own agenda on the Australian public in regards to bringing us inline with Chinese policy on internet access.
Failing that it might be an idea to listen to the industry and experts, but then again you're not listening at the moment.
Posted by Stainless Steel Rat / 19 Dec 2008 1:45pm / Permalink
"What was the best way for you to learn digital and media literacy skills?"
Oh, good, perhaps Senator Conroy is keen to develop his own digital literacy skills. I'll give you a hint: LISTEN TO WHAT THE EXPERTS ARE TELLING YOU!
Ignoring them, then accusing them of supporting child abuse may not prove to be the best solution in the long term.
I know you don't want us to talk about the filter until Monday, but the best thing you can do to promote ICT as a profession it to take it seriously yourself and not pretend that you know better than the entire industry.
Posted by Stu / 19 Dec 2008 12:56pm / Permalink
Listen to the industry, they tend to know more than you on the subject.
Posted by Concerned Christian / 19 Dec 2008 12:43pm / Permalink
Page 1 of 1 Previous 1 Next