A revolution in the making

A year ago Computerworld set out to discover if there was meat in the knowledge economy sandwich. At the time, with an election looming, inserting 'knowledge-based economy' into every sound bite became a prerequisite for politicians and sector group spokespeople.

A year ago Computerworld set out to discover if there was meat in the knowledge economy sandwich. At the time, with an election looming, inserting "knowledge-based economy" into every sound bite became a prerequisite for politicians and sector group spokespeople. The country's future depended on uttering the magic words as many times as possible, or so it might have seemed to a cynic.

Now, a year later, we've looked again at the issue of the knowledge economy, to see if what was promised or demanded or forecast has happened. In the 12 months since our first exploration of the subject, we've had a change of government, we've dipped out in international rugby's glittering prizes and we've come back from the Sydney Olympics with a lighter medal haul than many had (unreasonably) hoped for. Oh, and doom has descended upon the economy. Are the first three events related to the gloomy state we find ourselves in? Undoubtedly. The real question is whether the economic outlook is as dismal as widely believed.

I think not. And this Knowledge Revolution page of Computerworld is the cause of what to many will seem my misplaced optimism. I see abundant signs of hope that New Zealand can begin getting a return on its investment in information technology. For while I willingly go along with labelling this phenomenon a "knowledge revolution" because it's catchy, I don't really believe that's what's going on. What I discern is the growing realisation that New Zealand, like the rest of the world, can be run better through the sensible application of IT (in much the same way that banks last week reported better-than-ever profits as a result of doing more business electronically).

This isn't a revolution so much as the permeation through society of what the computer industry has known for years: that IT will be the crucial infrastructural compononent of the next century. (And well before the century's up this will all have ceased to be a talking point.)

As the technology trickles down, we're beginning to understand how it affects our traditional industries, education, the social fabric and legislative framework; we're also starting to see and exploit the new business opportunities that are opening up.

So where does my ridiculous optimism come from? It's triggered by stories I've read in this issue describing the success of multimedia companies like ClickSuite and Kog Transmissions (pages 14 to 16); by the overseas opportunities being eyed by New Zealand tertiary institutions (page 11); by the apparent willingness of government ministers to ease the way for companies wanting to cash in on the opportunities (pages 7 and 13); and by the readiness of foreign companies to invest here (pages 1 and 4).

These are signs that the momentum is picking up and, who knows, 12 months from now we might have a revolution on our hands.

Anthony Doesburg is Computerworld's editor. Email him at anthony-doesburg@idg.co.nz. Send letters to cw-letters@idg.co.nz.

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