Crikey: Australia’s web 2.0 wipeout on the wave of the future

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[Note: This is a slightly edited version of an article I wrote for Crikey this morning. The main difference is a bit more linkage. There’s more CeBIT / Transaction 2.0 material to come.]

In 1980 futurist Alvin Toffler wrote The Third Wave. Following the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions, he said, we’re now experiencing the Third Wave, or what might be called post-industrial society. Australia’s surfing prowess means nothing here, though. We’re still pissing in the shallows, barely held up by leaking floaties.

Why is tech-literate, well-educated Australia so bad at marketing and profiting from its own innovation, from the fisheye lens to gene shears? We do innovate, you know.

“Australians expect the government to do everything for them — but the government’s clueless,” explained journalist and evangelist Duncan Riley at yesterday’s Transaction 2.0 conference. “The Australia 2020 Summit is a classic example. The Internet was seen as an ’emerging’ industry. Emerging? We’ve had it for 20 years! In the US alone it employs 7 million people.”

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Australia 2020: The Disillusionment

Photograph of Kevin Rudd from The 7.30 Report

When Chairman Rudd announced the Australia 2020 Summit the euphoria kicked in like a clean hit of a fresh new political drug. After 11 drab years of John Winston Howard, Change! Big, bright colourful change with sparkly bits and the sound of a thousand sitars! But now the euphoria’s wearing off. We’re coming down — and the Main Event is still a month away.

Kevin still looks pretty cheerful, though, doesn’t he. Why is that?

Look back through everything I’ve written so far and you can see the moodswing. “Chairman Rudd’s got a clever strategy going,” my first post began. Another post was headlined Australia, let the Enlightenment begin!, quoting Maxine “Toadslayer” McKew and agreeing that the nation was ready to start a new conversation about its destiny. At the end of February I even nominated myself.

Given Rudd’s claim that his government would be open and transparent, and develop policies based on evidence, it all sounded pretty good.

As days go by, however, it’s become increasingly clear that the potential of the event will be stifled by the political “need” to placate the same old whingeing lobby groups, the same old middle-class middle-aged white men in dark suits (just flick through the Steering Committee) and, it seems, the “need” to pre-load the agenda with specific topics to… well, let’s explore that.

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