Telstra Digital Summit: No Going Back Now – Liveblog

I’m liveblogging from the  – keep updating the page for new content. You can also follow it online at

Andy Penn notes that last week was #BackToTheFuture day and also the day when self-driving cars were tested in autopilot, a prediction of Isaac Asimov.  Not as many predictions were true of Back To The Future as Asimov, but both failed to predict the internet and smartphones as well as the rate of change and the importance of innovation within the context of global conditions of economic and environmental fragility.

Penn notes that innovation is key to Telstra’s future.  He says customer centric innovation is the focus of the company, and while many efforts are in train to deliver a better customer experience, there’s still more to do.  Telstra is being compared not to traditional competitors but new players like Uber and other disruptors on the scene.

Penn says technology drives everything we do and he identifies three main trends that support this assertion: mobile, cloud, machine learning and artificial intelligence..

Mobile data grew 70% in 2014 and a billion new users came on line.  Video represents three quarters of the growth to happen over the next several years. Conservative estimates say that there will be over 50 billion devices connected by 2020.

Cloud is now the production environment tool for 86% of businesses.  Complexity is in getting information in and out of the cloud securely and at speed.  Telstra’s cloud business is one of its fastest growing units, growing at 30% YoY.  Cloud is bringing down the barriers to entry for traditional businesses.  Startups can use cloud based systems for data storage, PayPal for payments and social networks for promotion.

AI is the third major trend.  Artificial intelligence is playing a role in health support systems, customer support services and other research.

It is the combination of mobile, cloud and in conjunction with machine learning is what is providing the exponential growth of innovation.

It is the underlying network which makes possible the digital future.  Telstra wants the best network with the broadest coverage in Australia.  Over the three years to June 2017, they expect to have spent over $% billion on the network.  Next gen LTE technologies will be rolled out over the next period. By leveraging spectrum holdings, Telstra will be able to make greater content and services available to businesses and consumers.

Change will continue to grow.  But customer service has to be the focus of innovation to help customers connect.

Senator Mitch Fifield comes to the stage as Minister for Communications, who starts by saying that the theme song played as he mounted the stage was perhaps not ideal in noting when “I used to rule the world”.  Fifield notes that in his life at school he never touched a computer and his own role as Minister for Communications used to be Minister of Telecommunications and Post Master General.  It’s a sign of the times that most of the activities that were pursued at school and in research or in business are now mediated by technologies.  He lists the devices, the apps and the services that enable our lives and businesses from mapping systems, to messaging and payment systems, to applications of the ‘sharing economy’.

Digital platforms, says Fifield are inherently and infinitely scalable.  We can’t deny that the best interactions with government are those that do NOT require a visit to a govenment office.  The way this can be achieved is to partner with telecommunications and layers of expertise outside government.  The ambition is to make it easier for startups and consultants to more easily partner with government.  We need to become more flexible and agile.  Fifield notes that our current Prime Minister is probably the most tech savvy PM to date, and notes that innovation is mandated with the establishment of digital and innovation offices.

Exposing more students top STEM is critical to ensuring our innovation capability through the DTO.  Also need to make government more responsive and to normalise disruption, revolution, and change.

Service in commercial sector and government both need to react in real time.  Design and delivery needs to be improved in order to ensure that customer needs are being met in as and when they arise.

Fifield mentions the online ID service which is being rolled out to verify identity for online transactions with government.  This is expected to reduce the F2F transactions – 40% of the communications are still done F2F at a huge cost to the taxpayer.  So improving quality of service does require identity management and this can reduce the cost of delivery by many orders of magnitude.

Conclusion – if we want to remain a prosperous economy then digital transformation in business in government is essential.  This means d=fundamentally changing the way we do business.  We can no longer protect ourselves against the future – we need to embrace it.

Kathryn Parsons (@kathrynparsons) of Decoded is up next.  Monty Hamilton notes that teaching children to code is key to the future of innovation.  She notes that we all have a supercomputer in our pockets.  Globally by 2020, smartphone penetration will be at 80%. She says that artificial intelligence is now being used to predict crime.  Some of the latest VR is ‘better than reality’. But up to 75% of graduates feel ill-equipped to enter the workforce.  Considering the numbers of jobs to be replaced by automation, we need to think about the skills needed to continue to be relevant in the workplace.

Parsons believes that only 1% of the world can take advantage of new technologies – because of the skills they have.  She talks of Decoded and the basic questions which started the organisation – is it possible to learn code in a day?

She notes that in her studies she loved languages.  She notes that people who have taken advantage of technology tend to come not just from STEM but also from liberal arts, and they have learned to code as a means of improving their domains.

Parsons notes that women are opting out of technology – both at school and in careers. She says that there are ridiculous myths about women and technology.  The only difference between men and women in terms of computational thinking is in terms of digital confidence – women are 30%  less confident.

Parsons notes that Decoded is coming to Australia because digital is on the agenda.  Code Club gets a mention for its influence in putting coding in to schools! (YAY!)

Parsons leaves us with one question – what technology could kill your business.  If you can imagine it then probably someone is already making it.  You need to be part of that change.  The face of the future is increasingly interpreted by young technical prodigies.  We can’t wait for children to grow up to embrace change.  These ideas need to unleashed from youths and from minds that are more resistant to the rules, and more open to change.

Companies that collaborate effectively are those that make technology welcome and where technology business processes are the norm.  We are living through a learning renaissance.  We are seeing business look at learning as core to capability and skills of the business.

Parsons concludes that it’s fun to do the impossible.  Technology enables the impossible.

Robert Scoble is up next. He starts by challenging the notion of mobile as the future – he says we are entering a post mobile era.  We’re heading in to a world where the algorithms will control our existence.  Scoble talks about Magic Leap as the next way of viewing the world.  He cites others discussing eyeware as the next trillion dollar business.  It’s already happening.  This is the next wearable.  Never mind watches and phones, eyeware will be the vehicle of the next era.

Beacons, says Scoble, are the next gateways for interacting with destinations from public transport and workplaces to stadiums and events.

Scoble cites internet of things infrastructure for frictionless transactions, and for predicting or suggesting sales.  This is changing the way we market, but when we have Magic Leap we will stop having to pay.  Everything will happen, by location tracking, sales tracking, preference tracking.  These technologies will enable people to communicate more effectively – will free them up to solve more complex problems and to be more creative.

Scoble notes that Amazon Echo represents the future of virtual assistants.  Shopping centres will change on the basis of virtual fittings.  IoT devices will help save lives by notifying families if loved ones are not behaving normally in the home.  Parking sensors, gardening units, pet feeders, music kits – it’s all going to be driven by data activities and predictive technologies.

Scoble talks about 3D printing, workstations that tell you how to fix tech.  And he talks about how Oculus Rift will change the way we interact.  And he talks about sentiment analysis as a mechanism for helping improving lives.

Scoble concludes that privacy is an issue.  We need to think more creatively about how to resolve these issues.

We now have a Q&A on stage.  I’ll let the tweets describe these questions and answers. I’ll be back after the break.

Great start to the #telstrasummit.


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