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The Future is Now

As 2015 draws to a close we look at how technology is speeding up, and ultimately enhancing, every aspect of our lives.

3 min

Meet the virtual citizen



Meet the virtual citizen

To create the services and products consumers want, business needs to understand how people around the world are adopting, and changed by, technology.

Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated regions on earth, and one of the most innovative in using technology to improve connectivity.

A prime example of this is the government’s decision to introduce free wi-fi throughout the territory. Called Wi-Fi.HK, the service has more than 20,000 hotspots, enabling all Hong Kong citizens hyperconnectivity with the products and services they require.

Before being appointed vice-president of Hong Kong Polytechnic University, the former government chief information officer of Hong Kong, Daniel Lai, played an instrumental role in setting up this service.

In a city with an astonishing mobile penetration of 236 per cent (that’s at least two mobile phones per person, most of which are smartphones) – forward-thinking Lai and his government colleagues considered free wi-fi an essential public service.

“The average computer literacy of the average citizen is very high, so the government felt it was necessary to connect the population,” Lai explains. “By having both cellular mobile and wi-fi, we can connect everyone within the city.”

The fibre infrastructure which underpins the wi-fi offering was a vitally important first step in the government’s Digital 21 strategy, the blueprint for turning Hong Kong into a “digital city” – which was initiated in 1998.

“Once the infrastructure was in place we could introduce more digital and electronic services through the internet and through mobile,” Lai says. “More recently, it’s been about mobility and connectivity, which meant providing government public services in any form, on any media, any devices. Information and communications technology is for everyone, not only for the more privileged sections of society.”

It’s about mobility and connectivity … information and communications technology is for everyone, not only for the more privileged sections of society.
– Daniel Lai

Although the fundamental motivation for the Digital 21 strategy was “digital inclusion”, the result has also had a substantial impact on the capacity of business not just to operate but to thrive in Hong Kong. The same connectivity that keeps the elderly connected to doctors and care workers can be used to source information, deliver training and provide commercial and government services.

Connecting everyone

Founder and principal of UK consultancy Global Cities, David Adam, says it is critical for governments both to deliver technological infrastructure and explain the positive relationship between people and technology. He sees this as a crucial step in the creation of an engaging, business-friendly city.

“It is up to government to set out what the total vision means for every citizen,” Adam says. “We have to remember that technology is our tool and that we are trying to make lives better through technology. The challenge for the public sector and for political leaders is that while there have been exponential leaps in technology, there also needs to be exponential leaps in political vision.”

Adam says the role of technology – and in particular the pace of technological change – is often misunderstood in terms of “disruption” and jobs disappearing.

It’s up to government, he believes, to ensure that change does not represent disadvantage.

“Government needs to tell a long-term story about economic security, and offer a plan of how we will get over some of these challenges,” Adam says. “That will help to make citizens feel more accepting of change.”


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Connectivity starts the conversation

National general manager for government at Telstra, Jack Dan, emphasises that technology is also having a deep impact not only on what government communicates with its citizens, but also how that message is communicated.

“When we talk about the way that government explains or puts forward its message to the people, one of the most interesting changes in recent years is the fact that people expect a dialogue nowadays,” Dan says.

“So the general public is no longer the recipient of a message put forward by an organisation, be it from the public or private sector, it is very much a participant in the conversation. And that expectation is partly driven by the fact that digital technology is making available so much information.”

With meaningful digital transformation at its core, it’s up to governments to offer services enabling the stability, cultural activity and diversity which makes cities the sorts of places where smart, innovative people want to live.

Having worked with some of the world’s most celebrated cities, Adam shares his knowledge with the IN:SIGHT audience through with this video.

“The cultural environment is important, openness and good governance are next,” says Adam. “And once you can convince businesses they want to move to your city, the investment brings knowledge workers, infrastructure, innovation and invention – but it all begins with stability, culture, connectivity and buzz.”


Idea in brief

Business is buzzing in Hong Kong because:

  • The Digital 21 Strategy offers wi-fi for everyone
  • Hyperconnectivity means people can get what they want and need
  • The Government uses technology to support inclusivity
  • Technological innovation is actively encouraged across the economy

You can download and read Connecting Countries today.

2 min

Three C-level roles set to boom in 2016



Three C-level roles set to boom in 2016

Building the smarter business of the future means finding leaders who can adapt to turbulent environments and embrace hidden opportunities.

“Each year, a lot of money is wasted on the wrong people doing the wrong jobs,” says Gill Billings, executive director at recruitment and human resources specialist Who Group.


With more than 20 years’ experience in HR, consulting and recruiting, Billings understands that hiring the right people helps a business not only to function but to thrive. This begins at the leadership table.

“As businesses continue to grow smarter, leadership will evolve to respond to the demands of the market, the global economy and changing technology,” Gill says. “To be successful in their roles, C-level leaders must combine strategic outlook with functional expertise.”

To be successful in their roles, C-level leaders must combine strategic outlook with functional expertise.
– Gill Billings

Having conducted extensive research into the strategic management of organisations, Associate Professor George Shinkle of the Australian Graduate School of Management at the UNSW-Australia recognises the need for leaders with strong business knowledge, digital savvy, and customer-centricity.

“The problem encountered at the C-suite level is the trade-off between faster decision-making and increasing quality of decisions made – speed is increasingly important,” he says.

Here are the three C-suite roles to watch in 2016:

1. Chief finance officer (CFO)

The role of the CFO is only set to expand, taking in oversight and responsibility for other functions such as HR, IT and legal, Billings says. This increasing functionality will equip CFOs with the skillset to move toward other titles such as corporate services director, chief operating officer and even chief executive, she adds.

“CFOs have the discipline necessary to look at the numbers and do the analysis that’s needed to make hard decisions. The pressure and competitive nature of this role also leaves CFOs really well-equipped to deal with challenging situations.”


2. Chief digital officer (CDO)

The emergence of the CDO has been congruent with the proliferation of data and mobile technology throughout almost every facet of business. “Leaders in the digital world need more understanding of agility, innovation and experimentation, and disruption – how to sense and respond,” Shinkle says.

The frenetic pace of disruption means CDOs also need to be aware of how they can influence workplace culture through their ability to adapt to this unpredictable environment. “These are leaders who should be comfortable with failure and willing to expect that experiments that don’t give you the outcome you want aren’t failures – they are successful experiments to build knowledge,” Shinkle says.


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3. Chief security information officer (CSIO)

The CSIO’s role is becoming increasingly complex as tasks move away from general security and toward identifying, developing, implementing and assessing protocols to manage operational risks. This role will require C-suites to understand and close the gap between creating sound strategy and executing it through people, Billings says.

“In 2016 leadership will be all about mitigating disruptors, and mining and analysing data to identify solutions and opportunities,” she adds. “Technology will continue to make businesses smarter if they can harness it effectively, identifying new products and areas for growth based on what the numbers are saying.”

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1 min

Discover the power of partnerships



Discover the power of partnerships

Digital partnerships have become a powerful way to engage with new markets all over the world.

Sitting on the cusp of Asia with a highly educated, multilingual population seems to make Australian businesses the perfect candidates to expand into these fast-growing, and increasingly affluent markets.

However, going global means finding ways to cater to customers that are always on, always connected, and often mobile, as well as competing with entrants from Europe, The Middle-East and The Americas, all with their eyes on the same prize: the Asian consumer.

In an exciting, and relatively new phenomenon, rather than attempting to “go it alone”, businesses are working together and looking for partnering opportunities in order to expand into emerging markets or adopt new technologies. These are the findings of the recently published Connecting Companies: Strategic Partnerships for the Digital Age, developed by the Economist Intelligence Unit and commissioned by Telstra.

In this month’s instalment of the report we take a deep dive into the Always-On Customer, and look at how businesses around the world are using digital partnerships to address their needs and win their business.

Based on a survey of more than 1000 senior business leaders around the globe, the series will help to guide senior executives through the ways business can adopt innovative digital partnerships to: embrace disruptive new technologies; manage global expansion; and generate new revenue streams.

This instalment is the second of a six part series designed to explain the power and agility of digital partnerships and how they will benefit your organisation.

We also look at how partnerships are having a powerful positive impact on everything from interior design, to software development and manufacturing. To find out more, read the EIU special report “Shared Space”, to discover how the US-space agency has adopted open forms of collaborative innovation and innovative approaches to intellectual property sharing to blast orbital transport devices into space faster and more efficiently.


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2 min

The future belongs to positive people



The future belongs to positive people

From work to lifestyle and life-long learning, Bernard Salt is optimistic about the future.

The workplace culture of the future is almost here, thanks to technology.

Technology is empowering people in Australia to move from structured to flexible workplaces, promising sociability and connectivity like never before, according to KPMG partner, demographer and futurist Bernard Salt.

Here are five reasons he is optimistic about our technologically enhanced future:

1. Australians will use technology to improve lifestyle

According to Salt Australians have a great track record of adopting technology to boost their lifestyle and he believes this capacity will continue as we see new devices, vehicles and networks emerge around the world.

2. Technology will make work more flexible

The future is about flexibility as the pace of the workforce evolves to fit needs and desires. This means workers will have greater control over the time and place they work, offering lifestyle advantages and greater productivity, Salt says.

3. Technology will deliver diverse career opportunities

Being adaptable to change and new challenges will future-proof your career, Salt says. “You need to be articulate, you need to be social, you need to be fluid.”

4. Technology will enable life-long learning

A thriving career will be based on a process of upskilling, reskilling and refining. “If we are moving into a high-tech, knowledge-worker industry and economy, then it’s only natural that the workers of the future must be continually refining and upgrading their skills base,” Salt says.

5. The future belongs to positive people

A prosperous future lies in creativity, technology and positivity, Salt says. “If you’re up for the challenge and you have a positive view of the world and how you can fit into that world, then you will fly in the workforce of the future.”


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Bernard Salt, Partner, Demographer and Futurist, KPMG

I’m very positive about Australia’s future.

For 200 years the Australian people have been obsessed with lifestyle. We created eight hour, eight hours’ work, rest and play.

We take whatever technology, whatever, whether that’s suburbia, whether it’s a car, whether it’s the internet, whether it’s mobile phones and turn it to our advantage.

In the future workers will use technology to timeshift. They might want to work between 9 and 10 in the morning, then pick up their kids from school or complete a function and then work between 3 and 5 in the afternoon and again between 7 and 8 at night.

It’s all about flexibility, having control over your time and I think that’s the great promise of technology.

One thing we can say about jobs in the future is that you won’t have one job for life. You’ll probably have 15 or 20 jobs throughout your 30 or 40-year career

There is no single learning. There is no course. There is no skill set that you can learn today that will deliver you a career in 40 years’ time. Every career, every occupation, every industry, every business will evolve over the next 30 or 40 years and you need to evolve with it.

As long as you are open, flexible, fluid, agile, up for anything and prepared to learn anything, these are the skill sets that will future-proof your career.

If you don’t like change, then the future is scary. If you’re up for the challenge and you have a positive view of the world and how you can fit into that world, then you will, you will fly in the, in the workforce in the future.


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