What About the Digital Agenda?


The Australia 2020 Summit brought people from the heights and the streets together to meet and exchange ideas. It was an exciting concept that produced many valuable ideas.

In Creative Australia, there was a general consensus around the need to value the arts and to argue for a more sustainable future for the sector. Urgent as this agenda is, it tended to come at the expense of ideas development in areas such as architecture and built environment (a key link to the sustainability agenda), design (a key link between creative and other industries, from manufacturing to services) and the emerging area of digital content and the creative economy.

In the 10-15 years-into-the-future timeframe that the Summit was predicated on, I thought these emerging trends, and core creative industry sectors, could have received more attention.

I was intrigued that when mention was made of "digital content", it was mostly assumed that this meant infrastructure or digitising the content of cultural institutions. These are both crucial aspects of the digital agenda, but the key point is that there is a whole new industry sector emerging out of the convergence of communications, culture and social innovation. By 2020, Australia should be participating strongly in a rapidly expanding digital economy.

The digital agenda includes facilitating the growth of industry sectors that will provide today’s young "digital natives" with career opportunities that are barely on the horizon now. It means a major overhaul of teacher training and school curricula to embrace digital and creative literacies, using rather than banning social media in schools.

And understanding the "creative economy" means grasping the fact that there are more workers in creative occupations outside the creative industries than inside them. Creative skills are needed right across the economy. Digital content creation is set to become the general purpose technology of the 21st century.

There will be many participants who will be distressed about the Creative Australia strand’s late reframing of its priorities. This reframing, seen to some extent in the final communiqué handed to the Prime Minister on Sunday afternoon, and in his own final address to the assembled multitude, placed less of an emphasis on artistic practice and sought to connect the arts to science, innovation and the economy. As long as this rhetoric of linkage is accompanied by tough targets to deliver on the aspiration, it is a rhetoric that I support.

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.