Technology begins at home

Last week I was invited to attend NICTA's annual Techfest in Sydney and, as always, witnessing a showcase of home-grown IT expertise was very impressive. For quite a new organization - compared with, say, the CSIRO - NICTA has burst onto the scene as a veritable fountain of youth in an R&D sector struggling for relevance amid an abominable ICT industry climate - a topic its former head honcho Mel Slater personally weighed in on.

Key to its rapid ascendance is its willingness, nay policy, to work with a multitude of third parties. Its open approach to collaboration was exemplified by the number of people there from higher education institutions, state and federal government departments, and venture capitalist firms. Perhaps the biggest anomaly was the distinct lack of representatives from the wider enterprise. Techfest is well worth a visit by IT managers because there's a good chance some of the high technology on display can directly benefit a business's IT processes. Take the RTA's foray into wireless traffic lights as a good example. And if products or solutions aren't seen to be immediately beneficial, there's no doubt the busy brains of NICTA researchers can come up with one.

So before you sign another cheque to a multinational vendor or service provider - you know, they're the ones you keep complaining about - turn around and look at what local ICT research outfits like NICTA have to offer. Perhaps that's NICTA's next frontier, going after business IT problems (BTW NICTA, information and communications technology are one and the same industry sector). In the process NICTA may well go a long way to realizing profitability too. Sure, everyone loves to think of themselves as the owner of some "intellectual property", but being a bit more pragmatic about how IT is used in business could solve many problems a lot sooner. Let's hope both sides of the fence can see the mutual benefits.

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