Antiquated ideas won’t save Australia

The recently released Venturous Australia report that this quote refers to is actually quite an interesting read. I found it refreshingly aware of the importance of opening up research and strengthening the ICT industry, and overall recommend it as a good read with some useful recommendations.

So today I was amused when I had an article pointed out to me today with the following gem:

The recommendation referring to “machine searchable repositories for scientific knowledge” together with the recommendation suggesting that “research funded by governments… should be made freely available over the internet as part of the global public commons” is of considerable concern.

These recommendations are commercially naïve and potentially damaging to Australia’s interests. Australia’s Asian neighbours, such as Malaysia and Taiwan, are currently implementing strategies to capture publicly funded intellectual property (IP) on a national scale so that governmen can assist with commercialisation policies and frameworks to exploit that IP to drive economic outcomes. The Malaysian government, for instance, is establishing a “Technomart” to trade and license IP; not to make it freely available unless it cannot be exploited commercially.

The old closed approach isn’t where the big innovations today are happening. Open access to research and Government data has been shown many times over to create much greater economic value than a single institution commercialising the research or data. A great example is GIS data. There was a great talk by Alan Smart about this space, and he mentioned that open access to GIS data in the US was shown to create something like 20 times the value than closed access to the data. Alan spoke at a very interesting event run by Senator Kate Lundy called the Foundations of Openness and all the recordings and slides are available.

Ideally public access to data like this allows innovative Australian companies to find and meet new market needs, to compete for work based on the quality of their service, and to innovate on quality data. It is more beneficial for our industry as a whole, and for the market because companies competing with services around open data/software are generally under constant pressure to be high quality, whereas when you purchase a proprietary application you are limited by what the provider of that application has time/resources/desire to deliver.

Collaboration and open access is key to being able to stand on the shoulders of giants and reach for the bleeding edge. Not this antiquated approach of isolated individuals hunkered down in caves reinventing the wheel and using it to beat up the competition. Competition is good! Collaboration is good! Bleeding edge development, research and new markets will not happen in isolation, and software patents are limiting rather than encouraging of innovation. Fact.

One thing that really annoys me is that this is the CEO of the Australian Insitute for Commercialisation, and where is the thought leadership? Commercialisation doesn’t have to be limited to IP protectionism, it can also include revenue/business models including support/integration services, development, hosting, analysis and many, many other options. When done well, opening access to your data and even potentially your software can often provide access to new markets, promotion avenues, and give you and your organisation a great reputation which is where you will find new business opportunities.

As an aside, Malaysia is one country that is embracing Open Source technologies and approaches quite strongly, including a massive push for Government uptake of Open Source, and Government development of Open Source. This is being driven from the Prime Ministers department, so I think the whole picture is not being presented 🙂

2 thoughts on “Antiquated ideas won’t save Australia”

  1. Completely agree, Pia. Well said.

    It’s the same old song, that you’ve mentioned on this blog before: there are three arms on this triangle. The government, commerical interests and, importantly and not insignificantly, the tax-paying public who funded the work and could also create value-added products. Mr Kapeleris seems to be in that camp who only acknowledge the first two groups. The other 20+ million people don’t seem to matter.

    Ironically, as you note, his hypothesis is sound; he just doesn’t seem to understand what it means. Market-driven usage is a great idea and definitely a key component. Isn’t the same as, and doesn’t require, lock-in, however. I was in a reasonable mood until I read this. Now I’m annoyed. Thanks for pointing it out.

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