Google: Government bureaucrats need a tech shakeup

Entrenched culture apprehensive about disruption

Google Australia engineering director Alan Noble

Google Australia engineering director Alan Noble

An immobile culture in government departments is preventing bureaucrats from accessing crucial Web 2.0 and cutting-edge disruptive technologies, according to Google Australia engineering director, Alan Noble.

Noble, who participated on the Federal Government’s Web 2.0 taskforce before it disbanded at the end of last year see draft report here, told the Broadband and Beyond 2010 conference in Sydney that the taskforce agreed that it may take years for government staff to begin using the technologies and that industry and government are struggling with endemic IT staff shortages.

“It’ll take years for government workers to access Web 2.0 technologies, even if they want to,” Noble said.

“One third of [Google Australia] staff are imported from overseas. We do our best but the problem has to be addressed starting at primary school — we need to encourage parents that IT has worthwhile careers with good salaries.

“We haven’t stabilised enrolments in IT engineering since the dotcom crash,” he said. “[The] dotcom fiasco created a stigma with parents that we haven’t been able to overcome,” he said.

Noble said the taskforce found that government agencies need to be more transparent and available in disseminating information from agencies.

The University-backed Australian Research Council research director, Hugh F Durrant-Whyte, said IT — and specifically his industry of robotics — regularly lose skilled engineers to “cooler” fields like aviation.

He said it was up to industry to make IT appealing to parents and children.

Noble said children should know that the technologies lying behind their precious social networking tools are “all full of fascinating problems... and are cool technologies”.

He called software engineers “the heroes of the Internet” and said innovation is critical to Australia.

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