Principal, Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd, Canberra
Visiting Fellow, Department of Computer Science, Australian National University
© Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd, 1998
This Statement was prepared on and for Online Australia Day
This document is at http://www.anu.edu.au/people/Roger.Clarke/II/OLADay98.html
The material wellbeing of Australians is very heavily dependent on the Post-Industrial, Information, Online or Network Economy (by whichever name you choose to call it). We must be as nimble with information as the industrial era demanded that earlier generations be nimble with tools and materials.
We must be highly adaptive, not thinking in terms of a life-time occupation. We must all learn to learn, so that we can migrate through successive occupations as the job-market changes. To cope with the dynamism of competitive, worldwide marketspaces, there will be fewer opportunities for stable long-term jobs with large-scale organisations. On the other hand, there will need to be far more entrepreneurial new-business starters, and independent, flexible contractors.
The Information Economy is built on the Information Society. People will bring to their work the expertise and skills that they have developed because of their participation in electronic communities. Learning will take place informally, through usage of the net, and formally, through courses whose content is largely delivered via the information infrastructure, supplemented by occasional meetings with course-advisors and fellow students.
For the Information Society to underpin the Information Economy in this manner, it is essential that access be ubiquitous. Access to the information infrastructure must not be thought of as a paid service, or as an optional extra; rather it must become available to everyone, everywhere, just as readily as the air that they breathe, and the shopping centres, pubs, clubs and coffee-shops that they congregate in.
Information Society has, of course, additional aspects other than its economic dimension. Electronic communities provide us with the ability to discover and congregate with people with like interests, irrespective of location. This isn't a substitute for conventional community - achieving a balance between our real and virtual lives is critical to our health - but it is an important adjunct to our conventional community-life. From it can come a much closer sense of humanity, and a closer binding among people around the world. Not only distance, but even language barriers can be overcome, as (clumsy but workable) automatic translation becomes available.
Beyond the social dimension, the prospect of greater participation by members of the general public in the political dimension of life represents an exciting, albeit somewhat scary development. Public interest advocacy groups are harnessing the net to provide counterbalance against forces of government and industry that have previously run political processes to suit their own agendas. The transition to direct democracy will be rocky; but open, ubiquitous networking makes it an inevitability.
We have the scope to choose our futures to a degree never experienced before. It is vital that we integrate the information economy, information society, electronic community, and electronic body politic; and that we underpin them by ensuring widespread access, from every workplace, school, home, shopping centre and bus-stop.
Materials are available relating to the Information Economy, the marketspace, 'cyberculture', and public policy aspects of the information infrastructure.
Go to Roger's Home Page.
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Created: 27 November 1998
Last Amended: 27 November 1998
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