Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA)
Stimulating Growth in Australia’s Digital Ecosystem
Business View Oceania interviews Ron Gauci, CEO of Australian Information Industry Association , for our Technology View.
The Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) proudly represents the depth and breadth of innovation technology companies and their staff across the country. Originally formed in 1978 as the Australian Computer Equipment Suppliers’ Association, it was one of Australia’s very first technology industry bodies. These days, the association is the peak representative advocating for all those within our digital ecosystem. The AIIA exists to represent, connect, influence, grow, and partner with the information industry, championing its evolution and advancement.
AIIA supports hundreds of company members, equating to over 750,000 workers in industry and vendor communities, through advocacy, community, education, networking, innovation development, and information and resource provision. The AIIA’s full and associate memberships are 87% small to medium businesses, but also include global and multinational corporations, national organisations, start-ups, digital incubators, and innovation labs, universities, TAFEs, and technology schools, and government agencies. Members are welcome from all areas of the industry; telecommunications, software, hardware, AI, data, analytics, machine learning, communications, networking information services, cloud and data centre infrastructure providers, strategy and planning professional services, cyber security, government services, HR, talent acquisition, workforce planning, and non-ICT-related organisations.
We welcome Ron Gauci, CEO of AIIA, to speak on behalf of the association and its members. “We are the oldest association of our kind in Australia and the only one that still represents the entire depth and breadth of our industry. We came into being all those years ago to provide a representative organisation for the industry and solidify its role in the Australian economy, and from that point of view, our purpose hasn’t changed. Foundational members remain with us today, and our importance has never been more significant. Over the years we have successfully advocated for Australia’s National Skills program, the digitization of the Australian economy and digitalization of both private and public sectors, the building and development of the national broadband infrastructure, the commercialization of AI, major reforms to tax incentives, investments in the start-up community, the development of domestic credibility, and we’ve also navigated and continue to navigate the fine balance between privacy versus national security.”
He continues, “Despite the changes in technology over the last 44 years, our role hasn’t changed. We have seen and contributed to the growth of the industry over that time, particularly in the last 18 months, where the curve has just shot up. We’ve gone from being Australia’s sixth largest sector in the sharing economy to the third largest, and we have emerging technologies that would quickly see us move to the largest industry sector in Australia. So, it’s an exciting time to be involved in ICT.”
The team of 10 staff at AIIA, supplemented by approximately 350 state volunteers and outsource partners, value equality, innovation, communication, and responsibility above all else. Memberships are tiered according to the size of their employee base, and each member company holds one equal vote regardless of size, to provide equal opportunity for input and influence. AIIA also has representative from other Australian industries, Mr. Gauci explains. “We have representation for other critical sectors, including health, agriculture, sport, retail, fintech, etcetera. It’s important that we maintain diversity within our members and keep everybody on a level playing field. The ethical standing of our organisation is something we’re very proud of; we speak often on issues such as privacy versus national security, and the effect of that balance on Australians’ daily lives. We promote the discussion of technology as a force for good and seek to educate about its potential to improve people’s lives, rather than create turmoil. Topics such as the role of social and widespread media, for example, are very important to us. We look at, how can we make sure the distribution of news and information is carried out ethically? How can we minimise negative effects on our population, our economy, and our industry?”
The AIIA works hard to raise awareness and deepen understanding of what innovation technology is, what it looks like in action, and how it may be used to improve and support life on a day-to-day basis for Australians and their businesses. ICT is still seen as a largely technical industry, Mr. Gauci says, rather than an ecosystem that holds value for every sector in the country. “One of the challenges we face as a governing body is people still see our industry as a group of programmers; there is certainly a technical aspect to what our members do, but the reality is, technology touches so many other parts of our lives that generally aren’t considered closely enough.”
Innovation technology companies are also struggling to keep up with demand, Mr. Gauci explains. “The shortage of 250,000 workers is growing annually. It is crucial that we begin to promote our industry as a career path across the board; from primary school right through to people who are going back to school and looking for new challenges and opportunities. We also need to look at, how can we upskill and cross skill workers from associate industries? How can we bring new people in, and how can we keep them here? ICT roles are very, very well paid, and the shortage of skills and boots on the ground is only driving salaries up even further.”
The AIIA hosts a number of events and conferences to fuel innovation in ICT, including the annual iAwards, which recognise and promote innovation excellence for players throughout the digital ecosystem. The association also publishes their Connector digital magazine monthly to keep subscribers up to date with industry issues, policy changes, achievements, and more.
Mr. Gauci concludes with the AIIA’s expectations for the future. “Technology allowed us to continue socialise, collaborate, and do business from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, so I think we’re going to see people continue to appreciate the role that technology plays in their daily lives. There are 100 ways in which life and business has changed following lockdowns and COVID restrictions. The last time we had a pandemic of this size was the Spanish Flu. What came out of that was the building of infrastructure that allowed us to electrify our homes, which in turn led to a surge in manufacturing and consumption, and essentially brought on the roaring 20s. It’s no coincidence that 100 years later, we’ve built national infrastructure to connect our homes with technology like NBN and Wi Fi. So now we’re going to see amazing things following the difficulties we’ve been through- perhaps we will even see a new roaring 20’s! So from that point of view, the industry has never been more important to grow, invest in, and advocate for.”
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AT A GLANCE
Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA)
What: Peak body organisation representing Australia’s innovation technology ecosystem
Where: AIIA has offices in Melbourne (VIC) and Canberra (ACT)