Long-term social vision vital in app economy

7 Aug 2014 by Scott Middleton

This article was originally published in the Australian Financial Review. See the original.

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull last week launched the Progressive Policy Institute’s report on the “App Economy”. The report argues that government policy needs to get out of the way of app and technology developers.

The report’s author, Michael Mandel, suggests the government should compare apps to the evolution of the car. Had Henry Ford been dealing with the amount of legislative requirements modern car companies have to deal with, it is likely that the car would have taken years longer to hit mainstream, if it got there at all. A comparison of economic output from app-related jobs versus economic output from the jobs that are being destroyed by apps would have been more insightful and valuable for policymakers. There is an interesting shift taking place, similar to the industrial revolution, in which more jobs are being destroyed by technology than are being created, yet productivity is still increasing.

Preparing for this change means developing a social safety net that anticipates redundancy and retraining, rather than exacerbating social unrest by punishing individuals for macro-economic change. The government welfare reforms due to come in next January will achieve the reverse. Australia needs a workable long-range plan to maintain our standard of living while our economy transforms. Formulating such a plan will mean each portfolio looking beyond its silo.

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