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Uschi Schreiber : Calling us to act

Uschi Schreiber AM, the EY Fellow on Digital Society and Innovation, and former member of EY’s global executive board, is a leading contributor to the public debate around technology, disruption, and industry transformation. In a virtual roundtable with influencers in Australia’s industry and innovation circles, and facilitated by Advance.org CEO, Maria MacNamara, Uschi provided a concise overview of global trends, the challenges facing the Australian economy, and the opportunities to be seized. 

KEY TRENDS SHAPING DECISIONS

While our focus is currently on the global pandemic, Uschi highlighted the broader structural trends of the last decade that have created the platform from which we are viewing the Covid19 crisis. In just the last ten years, we have witnessed positive gains in human factors, including literacy, access to electricity, and reductions in extreme poverty; breakthroughs in healthcare, machine learning and space exploration; and the ascent of technology which has fundamentally changed our relationships, behaviours and work processes. Uschi suggested 5 key issues that will shape the next 10 years:

  1. Climate change, and its expected impact on the GDP of vulnerable nations (such as Australia)
  2. Geopolitics with shifts eastward of the centre of power and renegotiation of global institutions and alliances.
  3. Fracturing technology development, with geography defining information availability and regulations, and the parallel growth of tech giants (such as Google, Apple, WeChat etc). 
  4. AI everywhere will impact how value is created and requires articulation of ethical frameworks.
  5. Wellbeing embraced as a way to control our health and medical outcomes

And while many other trends could be included, Uschi pointed to emerging outcomes of the global pandemic, such as increased nationalism, attractiveness of regional areas over cities, decentralisation and virtual delivery of healthcare, and a higher value placed on good government. 

HOW WILL AUSTRALIA ADAPT

Australia is facing the future global digital economy with mixed assets. While Australia has demonstrated strengths, such as a functioning federation, an educated workforce, strong public health system, and some competitive industries, Uschi outlined the weaknesses that will impair Australia’s ability to compete. These include:

  • Lack of a diversified economy
  • Vulnerability to climate change
  • Rising gender gap
  • Declining educational outcomes
  • Low R&D spending
  • Slow internet speeds

To respond proactively, Uschi has outlined key actions that Australian leaders should take. Underpinning the specific recommendations was a persuasive call for tough choices, strong leadership, and active citizen engagement and participation. 

WHERE TO FROM HERE

The roundtable discussion focused on the role of entrepreneurship in helping Australia to emerge stronger in a post-pandemic world. In particular, the need for the government to be deliberate in how it supports innovation, the ecosystem we need to build, the talent we need to attract, and the role of Australia’s largest companies that are still predominantly domestically focused. Australia is one of the first countries to re-open its market, and thus has an opportunity to define and achieve bold national goals to make Australia stronger for the next decade.