Effort needed to get benefits from digital

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Debate continues on the growth and productivity statistics in the digital age. Ben Potter’s article ” The internet: reports of its deficiencies premature, says McKinsey Global Institute ” (March 20) about the MGI report, Digital Globalisation: The New Era of Digital Flows…

Effort needed to get benefits from digital

Debate continues on the growth and productivity statistics in the digital age. Ben Potter's article "The internet: reports of its deficiencies premature, says McKinsey Global Institute" (March 20) about the MGI report, Digital Globalisation: The New Era of Digital Flows, shows the internet-inspired "industrial revolution" has not yet arrived. Although there has been remarkable development in the digital economy, it is not showing up in the growth and productivity statistics.

The 2012 National Bureau of Economic Research paper by Robert Gordon on US economic growth explains why. Computers, the internet and mobiles only boosted a short-lived US economic growth revival between 1996 and 2004, with dismal prospects for future US economic growth post-2007. These patterns over recent years are confirmed by OECD figures, with the downturn in economic growth evident in almost all advanced nations.

Why doesn't the progress of the digital economy show up in national aggregates? Digital Dividends, the World Bank's 2016 world development report shows why: digital economy gains require co-investment in analog complements (i.e. organisational capabilities and skills) while the rules and regulations shaping the business climate also need to be established.

When we then look at Australia, we can see the same sluggish productivity performance since 2005 widespread across economic sectors. We need to close the gap and reap the benefits of the investment in ICT. As we argue in our working paper, Technology Investment Is Not Enough: Growing Australia's Productive Digital Economy, this can be done by investing in those analog complements.

Initiatives by government help Australia achieve its digital future. But those initiatives cannot replace the need for firms to invest and prioritise digital capability development. We do not expect firms to do this alone and, through the PwC chair in digital economy at Queensland University of Technology, we work with a range of industry partners to do just that.

Marek Kowalkiewicz, Rowena Barrett and Shahid Md Shahiduzzaman
Queensland University of Technology
Brisbane, Qld

The meaning of life is that it stops

As a physician, it is heartening to hear the affirmation of personhood and humanity in Oliver Sacks' literary output ("The mighty life of Oliver Sacks captured by Norman Doidge", March 24-28). Contemporary medicine has lost sight of its mission to heal the total person. Psychosocial aspects of illness are difficult to deal with, not able to be quantified and demarcated over time.

Doctors could learn from Dr Sack's bravely vigorous, yet life-affirming reaction to news of his metastatic disease. Dying and death is prescient in my work as an emergency physician. I treat people injured in accidents – some die at the roadside before they get to hospital. Breaking news of a failed resuscitation can be heartbreaking for a child's parents.

Even though death is the price we pay for life, Kafka's "the meaning of life is that it stops" remains scant consolation when life is robbed unexpectedly or prematurely. I counsel those left behind that dying, especially at an old and infirm age, is not something to be raged against or resisted at all cost. On learning he had terminal cancer, Sacks gratefully declares that "above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure" and that it is the "fate – of every human being to be a unique individual, to find his own path, to live his own life, to die his own death".

Joseph Ting
Brisbane, Qld

Winston was a saviour but no saver

Oh dear, the trend in history today is to revise and condemn much of what was previously accepted as historical fact. Who among us is perfect? Whatever Winston Churchill's failings ("Winston Churchill – great with war, bad with money, especially his own", March 24-28), during World War Two he saved Britain from becoming a Nazi slave state, a fate that befell much of Europe. In the 1930s he was probably the highest paid journalist in the world. In the 1950s he was offered a dukedom. (He didn't take it, as it didn't come with a great spread of land.) Living until 90, he was also a pretty good advertisement for a drink and a smoke. But then, you can't say that today.

Richard Craig
HistoryWow
​South Yarra, Vic

Losing money in crowds

Last week's Australian Securities and Investments Commission annual forum showed united enthusiasm for technologically driven improvements in financial services. A key government proposal is to introduce draft laws to permit crowd-sourced equity funding. In other words, laws that will relax investor protection laws for small start-up companies seeking to raise no more than $5 million from mums and dads.

Crowd-sourced equity could provide significant capital to great entrepreneurs. This will drive economic growth and be good for Australia. The new laws have merit. However, only 10 per cent of start-ups succeed. Another statistic is that only 50 per cent of Australians know what 50 per cent is. With the fourth-largest superannuation pool in the world, the gap between where financial literacy within our population is, and where it ought to be, is large. The fact is, many mums and dads will lose money in these investments due to normal market forces. Many investors will not understand why they lost their money, and some will want someone to pay them back.

In letting mums and dads access high risk start-ups without normal investor protections, it must follow that the government accepts its role as the underwriter of responsibility for the laws it enacts.

Rupert Smoker
Professional trustee
Birchgrove, NSW

Fence compulsion from Trump shirt

There is growing discussion about the potential election of Donald Trump to the US presidency, noting what is often a divergence between his public claims and reality. Let me relate my own experience with the claims of "the Donald".

Two years ago while visiting New York I bought a Donald Trump "Signature" business shirt that was heavily marked down on sale. After prolonged trepidation it was only last week that I finally wore the shirt.

Although quite fashionable, it was advertised as "non-iron" but does in fact need ironing to be anywhere near presentable, particularly as a business shirt. Is this another example of a Trump "statement" that fails the public test? I have however found that whenever wearing the shirt I have an overwhelming compulsion to ask my neighbour to build a new fence, and at his expense.

Alex Gosman
Bruce, ACT

Still need newspapers and a good cuppa

The comments by Greg Hywood, chief executive of Fairfax Media, that "it was clear that the end was inevitable for print, a 600-year technology, as the primary source of information dissemination" needed to emphasise the word "primary". People are certainly using the internet as a source of information, and for many it is not only the primary but probably the only source, although maybe with the TV handy.

But there will always be people like me who enjoy curling up with a cuppa, and have an addiction to the physical newspaper as a primary source of information (along with TV and the internet). The latter is most useful for social networking media and office work, while the newspaper is to be enjoyed and much less intrusive. Hard to envisage anyone surviving without the physical Australian Financial Review.

Laurence Strano
Northbridge, NSW

More minor parties not fewer

In reference to George McGregor ("New Senate system gives voters a choice", Letters March 24) Australians don't have to follow any how to vote card at an election. Even when I was a member of the Liberal Party (1994-2003) I never followed the HTV to the letter as I disliked giving higher preference to parties like Rise Up Australia, Fred Nile and the like.

I always pre-poll on the first day polling stations are open (usually weeks before the official election day) and I vote below the line in the Senate and the Legislative Council in Victoria for my choice in the order I want. Sure, 65 senator candidates are a lot but elections are only every few years so no big deal. The most important thing is who you put last in any ballot paper as they get no preferences. The recent tinkering with the election process is undemocratic and is trying to institute a two-party duopoly, with the voices of millions of Australian not head in Canberra. We need more independents and smaller parties, not less of them.

Adrian Jackson
Middle Park, Vic

We must do our share in defence

Dennis Richardson, the head of the Defence Department, discussed the new white paper with Tony Walker ("It's about a rules-based order", March 24-28). The ambitious plan to boost our armoury is commendable. As an alliance partner, the US expects of Australia that it does its share of heavy lifting in the region in projecting force.

If Australia seeks to assert a truly independent foreign and defence policy, it must have the capabilities to do so. A re-configured and enhanced ADF will be in furtherance of that aim.

Mike Fogarty
Weston, ACT


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