Tech and Innovation | Telstra News |

Growing Australia’s digital economy out of COVID-19

By Andrew Penn June 26, 2020

When COVID-19 made many of us shut our doors, something happened. Digital doors opened in their place. We embraced technology like never before to keep businesses running, people working, kids learning and ourselves entertained.

We now have a growing digital economy – something I recently highlighted as a significant opportunity we as a nation should seize. With businesses reopening and social restrictions relaxing, (albeit with some constraints given the risk of increased infections), we should stop thinking about post-COVID-19 as only a “recovery”, but as an opportunity to grow the economy in the long term and put us in a better global position.

From the Industrial Revolution to the Great Depression, profound disruption has brought opportunities to be bold, to re-think conventional wisdom, and seek out new economic and social opportunities to help build a stronger future for everyone.

COVID-19 has proved change can be made and embraced quickly. During the height of the pandemic we saw a huge acceleration in digitisation – from telehealth to online learning, remote working and e-commerce – and the fast-tracking of numerous policy and regulatory changes to break down long-standing digital roadblocks.

As a nation we have achieved in a few months what might have taken us years to progress, and it is important that we now do not lose that momentum.

However, a single company, a single organisation or a single government cannot achieve this on its own. Through coalitions across the public and private sectors, we can affect change by removing barriers and incentivising growth so it is faster and more pervasive.

Over the past few weeks I have been Chairing the Business Council of Australia (BCA) Digital Economy and Telecommunications working group, and this is exactly our aim: to map out tangible ways we can put Australia at the forefront of a digital future – paperless, cashless and virtual – so we can come out of this stronger as a nation, not just bounce back.

This requires reform in five key areas: 

  1. Digital transition 
  2. Infrastructure 
  3. Regulation 
  4. Cyber Security 
  5. Skills  

1. Digital transition

Australia’s local businesses and enterprises pivoted quickly to ensure they could keep running – from working from home, to medical practitioners delivering telehealth consultations, we even saw interactive online cheese tasting sessions!

Technology was at the core of many businesses that adapted well. That said, a range of recent studies found that Australia’s small-to-medium enterprise sector could be substantially enhanced by a greater investment in digitising their internal processes and developing an effective web presence. Xero’s September 2019 Small Business insights indicate that businesses that boost technology spending the most grow revenue three times faster than those with the weakest technology spend.

Some options we are exploring include potential incentives and assistance to help the small business sector access the benefits of greater digitisation of business processes and an improved online presence.

2. Infrastructure

Connectivity is what powered many workers and businesses during the crisis, ensuring they could continue running.

For Australians to effectively participate in the digital economy, they need access to affordable, fast and reliable telecommunications services.

Telstra announced $500 million of capital expenditure planned for the second half of FY21 would be brought forward into the calendar year 2020, to increase capacity in our network, accelerate our roll-out of 5G, power more people with connectivity as well as provide a much needed economic boost.

With the completion of the nbn rollout nearing, there is now an opportunity for the Australian Government to develop its future vision for Australia’s digital economy and the telecommunications industry for the next decade – a vision that is technology agnostic and provides an environment that is pro-investment and pro-innovation.

3. Regulation

Governments and regulators play a significant role in enabling a digital nation, as well as ensuring as many Australians as possible can take advantage of the opportunity.

They took significant steps forward during the pandemic, including measures to help provide better access to telehealth, virtual AGMs, electronic execution of documents, and national electronic pharmacy scripts.

In the spirit of those last two initiatives, the BCA will be recommending a systematic review of regulation from federal to state to local, to eliminate barriers to a virtual and paperless society and a cashless economy.

4. Cyber Security

Last week was a timely reminder about the importance of strong cyber security, with the Prime Minister highlighting major cyber-attacks that are putting pressure on critical infrastructure and public services.

Cyber security is a large and growing area of risk for the security of the nation, and COVID-19 has increased that risk with so many people working and studying from home, away from traditional security measures.

Separately, I have been working with the Government chairing its industry advisory panel on the development of the 2020 Cyber Security Strategy. This will contain a number of significant initiatives to strengthen our collective cyber defences.

5. Skills

It was inspiring to see the flexible and innovative mindset many businesses adopted during the pandemic. This mindset needs to be deeply ingrained in Australian culture and to do this we need to invest in science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) skills.

We have partnered with five Australian universities to jointly develop critical skills and capabilities in areas such as network and software engineering, cyber security and data analytics. But we also need more people entering technology courses, and particularly more diverse talent, including female and Indigenous students.

We are also working on a suite of proposed improvements to the way industry and the education system collaborate, to ensure Australia’s school leavers have the foundation skills needed to succeed in the modern digital economy.

Australia’s opportunity to lead

The economic downturn caused by COVID-19 has left many businesses and families doing it tough and we need to do everything we can to build a stronger economy in the longer term in response.

Australia has been a world leader when it comes to protecting the nation’s health and economy during COVID-19, and now we can lead again. It will be important in so doing that this includes success for all of our communities.

I recently posed the question What type of historical moment will this turn out to be?. As life slowly begins to return to some type of normal, we are approaching a sliding doors moment.

We can go back to the way things were, or we can build on the innovative, can-do mindset that drove so many positive changes during the most significant disruption to daily life in a generation.

Business and Enterprise | Tech and Innovation |

A new frontier of innovation with advanced remote operations

By Michael Ebeid AM October 4, 2019

I’m always impressed at our team’s ability to solve problems using our networks in the pursuit of a better future for our customers, and for their customers. Today we’re unveiling a new frontier in remote operations.

Through our ongoing partnership with leading geospatial specialist Fugro, we’ve developed the ROC, or Remote Operations Centre. Based in Perth at our International Telecommunications Centre, the ROC is helping to service Fugro’s maritime operations off the coast of Western Australia in a whole new way thanks to satellites, automation and innovation.

Using our satellite network, we are working with skilled Fugro engineers to operate a fleet of maritime submersible robots. These drones beam high-definition video to remote operators in Perth from an incredible depth. Paired with the range of our satellite network, Fugro could deploy this remote drone capability to anywhere on Earth – from the coasts of Africa through to the shores of the Americas.

These robots will operate up to 4000 metres below the surface of some of the roughest oceans in the world, with duties including the remote inspection, repair and maintenance of Fugro infrastructure.

Prior to the deployment of the ROC and its fleet of subsea satellite drones, Fugro would need to deploy a manned vessel into the area to control the monitoring equipment. This presented a challenge, as crews would need to contend with rough conditions and harsh environments.

This use of satellite technology means greater efficiency for partners like Fugro, but also means greater levels of workplace safety, as it reduces the need for crewed boats to visit subsea infrastructure. Fugro can now maintain its subsea assets off the coast of Western Australia, including oil and gas resources, telecommunications cables and more.

This incredible application of our networks to the cutting-edge sector of remote robotics holds incredible potential for other industries. We’re already investigating future opportunities for the ROC in the wider market.

Industries like mining, agriculture and even those in the space sector could benefit from remote monitoring and maintenance. Any industry contending with a harsh or remote environment could benefit from the capabilities and applications we’ve created at the ROC.

We’re excited to share the work of our partnership with Fugro with other customers and industries, including the potential of using our Remote Operations Centre as a hub for innovation that can support the development of joint government and industry automation initiatives.

We truly believe we’ve uncovered a rich vein of economic opportunity for jobs and growth in the Western Australian and national economies.

Business and Enterprise | Small Business | T22 | Tech and Innovation |

Bringing our business technology expertise to more customers across Melbourne

By Michael Ackland August 28, 2019

The first Telstra Business Technology Centre to be rolled out in Victoria is now open – with our new Melbourne City centre providing expert information, personalised service and ongoing support to our small business customers from the iconic Rialto building on Collins Street.

I was proud to officially open the Telstra Business Technology Centre at Melbourne City today, and to meet the dedicated team of experts who will be available both for walk-ins and by appointment to offer a one-stop-shop for advice to our small and medium-sized business partners.

Our Business Technology Centres are designed with the needs of business owners and operators in mind – no matter how simple or how complex their operations are. The staff at our Centres are highly trained with expertise in our small business solutions, whether you need to set up a website or e-commerce store, if you want a cloud service for your digital operations, or if you have more traditional needs like fixed broadband or mobile services.

The Melbourne City store is one of the 28 Telstra Business Technology Centres that we are opening around the country this year, providing bespoke support and advice to our small and medium business customers on the technology their operations need to succeed.

There are over 9000 of our small and medium business customers in the area surrounding this new Business Technology Centre in Melbourne, so we know there is a strong demand for this kind of personalised support. We know that the needs of small and medium-sized businesses are constantly changing and evolving as technology evolves, and we know you want guidance on the best and most effective ways to grow their operations.

Telstra Business Technology Centre Melbourne

Our ongoing partnership with cloud technology provider Oreta means that our Melbourne City centre can address the increasingly complex technology needs of businesses, with experts on hand in cloud services, security and multi-site networks for larger operations. An experience centre inside our new offices will also showcase the latest technology and solutions from our partners, including products from Cisco, Microsoft and Google. Telstra and Oreta have grown their relationship over time. Now, as a full-service partner, Oreta is a trusted business advisor for Telstra’s customers bringing togethertechnology vendors and Telstra’s world-class connectivity to delivergenuine customer-centric solutionsto meet the unique needs of business customers.

We’ve also recently launched Account Management Support for all our small business customers, irrespective of their size or their spend with us. We hope this is a boon for time-poor business owners – by offering them personalised support from a specialised team with extended operating hours, we want to take the burden of managing Telstra services off the hands of business owners to give them more to run their business more effectively. We will continue to roll out our Telstra Business Technology Centres around Australia throughout this year and the next. We’ve made many changes to the way we work with small business as part of our T22 strategy, and we’re always listening to better understand the needs of customers now and in the future.

Telstra Business Technology Centre Melbourne
Tech and Innovation |

Challenging the next generation of innovative thinkers

By Kate Stewart August 22, 2019

Rapid advances in technology are fundamentally changing the nature of work – from the jobs that exist to the way work is done. Research by the Committee for Economic Development (CEDA) estimates almost 40 per cent of jobs that exist today have a moderate to high likelihood of disappearing in the next 10 to 15 years. On the flip slide, there will also be jobs that don’t yet exist. All of which makes preparing for the future of work critical.

Understandably, when many people think about the skills needed in the future, they think about coding, software engineering and cyber security. What you might not immediately consider are some of the human skills that will be important. We’ll be living in a software and social future where a combined STEM and social sciences background will be crucial ingredients for success. Think communication, complex problem solving, creativity, collaboration and emotional intelligence.

For example, building the world’s best cloud or AI technology will be important. But so will be finding the best way to collaborate – by leveraging multidisciplinary teams and partnerships, within companies or across companies, to drive new revenue and market opportunities for the businesses they are a part of. In the same vein, being able to analyse data will be important, but so too will the ability to interpret it, make informed assumptions and be able to communicate it in a way that is easily understood and applicable to customer requirements.

We’re committed to building a future-ready workforce and helping equip the next generation with the skills they’ll need. As part of this, we recently partnered with the University of Technology Sydney to give students insight into the disruptions facing businesses across industries and challenge them to test and explore how an organisation could build an inclusive and future-ready workforce.

Split into three groups, 150 students from the Faculty of Transdisciplinary Innovation were asked to outline how they would build an engaged future workforce, considering career opportunity and growth, diversity and inclusion, and the role education partnerships would play.

UTS Student Challenge
Claudia Pilon-Summons tells the Telstra panel how her team worked together, admitting that doing a group Nutbush showed the value of play and helped the team work better together.

In considering career opportunity and growth, the first group focused on career strategies and recommended a skills platform that would facilitate lateral moves into other areas of an organisation beyond team boundaries. Part of their consideration was also creating a safe environment where it would be okay to try something new like moving into a totally different role and failing in doing so.

The second group looked at workplace diversity and inclusion. A big part of their focus was the role of inclusive language in improving culture, such as referring to ‘balanced’ teams over ‘diverse’ teams; ‘mentors’ over ‘managers’ – and they pitched algorithmic hot desking to reshuffle social groups and enable natural diversity.

UTS Student Challenge
Aston presents division two’s approach to maintaining diversity in an organisation undergoing great change.

The challenge’s third group looked at how businesses could partner with education institutions to attract and retain diverse talent. Part of their proposal included immersing students and employees in transdisciplinary teams that focused on rotations and projects that build breadth of experience to develop in-demand skills.

UTS Student Challenge
Phoebe Wynn-Jones and Luke Castaldi led the group in an exercise demonstrating the process of self-organisation showing that while the vision may be clear, the path to get there isn’t.

The students used creative thinking, innovation and complex problem-solving – capabilities that are highly valued now and will be into in the future.

Thank you to the students from UTS for stepping up to the challenge. Your recommendations showed the importance of embracing technology, making diversity and inclusion central to business thinking, and understanding social trends and employee needs to adapt and be future-ready.

Considering challenges like this will help future Australian business leaders prepare for disruptions, and understand how those disruptions will flow on to change an organisation, its workplace culture and employee expectations.

We look forward to continuing to partner with a range of education institutions – from schools to vocational education providers and universities – to build the skills needed for the future and a strong talent pipeline for Australia.

5G | Network | Tech and Innovation | Telstra News |

Making our roads safer with connected vehicles

By Nikos Katinakis June 24, 2019

Ever since webegan planning forthe roll out of 5Gin Australia, we’ve been talking about the potential impact it would have on the future of autonomous vehicles. Today we’re bringing a little bit of thatfuturetoour Cellular V2X projectin partnership with VicRoads and Lexus.

Making our roads safer in Australia is more than just a goal – it’s a necessity. Victoria’s Towards Zero planis designed to ensure thatthestate’sroad toll is constantlypushed towards the vision of zero deaths and serious injuries. That’s why we’re proud to put our techtowards savinglives on the roadworking with Lexuson the Advanced Connected Vehicles Victoria (orACV2) project.

We have just demonstrated this technology to the public for the first time today, and on-road testing of these connected vehicles will now commence in Victoria – so keep an eye out!

By optimising our network, we’re able to create a system that goes beyond simply connecting vehicles to each other–instead alsoconnecting them to existing road network infrastructure.We’re able to use the fast, low-latency cellular ‘vehicle-to-everything’ (or V2X) infrastructure we havebuilt over 4G to make drivers more aware of potential risks and dangers on the road before they’re able to see it themselves.

In a connected test vehicle, for example, hard braking could send out an alert of this behaviour to alert nearby vehicles to the danger before existing in-vehicle sensors could detect the problem. Vehicles could also detect red light violations, which are received from vehicles that might be about to enter an active intersection against the light. Cameras mounted on the dashboard of test vehicles could also be connected, and configured to detect pedestrians in intersections, alerting drivers to give way.  

We’ve brought a bit of 5G performance, low latency, into our 4G network for this trial. For the moment, our 4G network has wide area coverage, and so the first hundreds or thousands of cars that use this technology will certainly do that on 4G. What 5G brings is the ability to do this at scale, with many cars on the road all communicating at the same time. What’s great is that uptake of this technology will go hand in hand with the way we’re building 5G coverage, so by the time it’s needed, we’ll have the network built out.

Crucially, we are investing in this project to develop cellular V2X for connected vehicles well before automated vehicles are readily available – making driver safer, easier, more economic and more enjoyable.

This technology is proof that mobile and automotive connectivity developed here in Australia has the ability to help prevent accidents on our roads and to potentially save lives. The strength and speed of our mobile network means Telstra is well placed to support a future where this technology can become a reality.

Our purpose isconnecting Australia and building a future where everyone can thrive –and we’re especially proud to work with VicRoads and Lexusin this spiritto make ourroadssafer.