Big Blue blows e-biz trumpet

Government and industry in Australia need to act now if the country is to benefit from the e-business opportunity sweeping the globe today, David Thodey, managing director and CEO of IBM Australia, said last week.

Thodey, in a speech to the National Press Club, urged action and commitment from Australia's business community and the government.

"Government's role, policy formulation, using e-business themselves, and [providing incentives for] industry to use e-business should be complemented by industry's efforts of self-regulation, skills development and financial commitments," he said.

"To create the shift we need a national mandate for change, for everyone," Thodey said.

"This is a leadership challenge: e-business requires top-level commitment; a CEO who fully understands the opportunities. Leaders must have the vision, establish the strategy, ensure execution and stand accountable for the results.

They also need to set an environment that is right for change. This applies to government, company and community leaders," he said.

"There is a role for both government and business in progressing Australia in the networked economy."

"The pace can only increase if both governments and industry work together on the transformation journey that e-business requires," Thodey said.

"This new industry is real and there are new Net-generation businesses that will succeed. We're seeing the beginning of an economy based more on the information age. It is not about old and new, or dotcom mania. This is about long term sustainable change and economic growth."

In particular, Thodey recommended the Australian government:

* lead by example in implementing e-business in a cross-agency approach, including a whole of government e-portal strategy; * encourage the development of the networked economy and opportunities by light-handed and self-regulated policies, and; * stimulate the environment through investment in the whole of government framework and incentives for users of government services.

"We'd recommend the government adopt an e-portal strategy . . . a single, main entry point through which citizens and businesses can access government services and information," he said.

"This would provide a customer-centric approach across several agencies rather than each agency operating independently."

Thodey said conducting business online was a great cost saver - so much so that IBM would no longer use suppliers who were not conducting their business on the Internet.

Last year IBM worldwide saved $US270 million by this policy.

He said IBM took 42 million inquiries on the Internet last year, shifting its support from the telephone, which amounted to $750 million in cost avoidance and productivity savings, and the company also saved by conducting training online.

"This has meant a significant cultural change," he said.

"It must start at the top. The CEO must be committed to this change.

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