Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has announced the Labor government's plans to bring the country's "best and brightest" together by convening the Australia 2020 summit in April -- but concerns have been raised over its use of technology.
"The reason we are doing this is because we believe the nation faces serious long term challenges which go well beyond the normal electoral cycle," Rudd said at a press conference yesterday. "We want to make sure that in rising to those challenges that we bring forth and summon forth the best ideas available across our country."
The government has scheduled the summit be held on the third weekend of April and intends to invite 1,000 people to Parliament House with expertise in any number of the 10 designated areas of interest the meeting hopes to tackle.
The digital economy and innovation are specific items on the agenda, which also aims to plot future directions for infrastructure, productivity, population sustainability, climate change, indigenous Australia, governance and the arts.
Rudd said that the 10 areas will be examined by one hundred delegates each and chosen at the discretion of the 10 individuals selected to chair the various working groups. He also noted that all participants are expected to pay their own way.
"I think it's interesting that in 2008 we're bringing people together physically like this," said Sheryle Moon, CEO of the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA). Moon added that the Internet is not being utilised effectively ahead of the summit and suggested the government consider using Web 2.0 as a conduit for greater social and political inclusion.
"We're not using all the technology available to get all the best ideas out," she said. "The problems in each of these areas are reasonably well known, by making the most of the technology at hand each one could be defined fully ahead of the summit and free up the time needed to work through solutions."
Professor Glyn Davis, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Melbourne and Rudd's co-chair for the summit, said Australia 2020 is an "extraordinary opportunity" for the nation.
"It is all too rare to bring prominent Australians together from a huge range of areas and ask them to think about the future," Davis said.
AIIA's Moon said that technology will play a role in all of the issues and said that each working group would require at least some experts with a technology background.
"Each area would definitely need someone who understands the enabling features of technology," she said, adding: "I think technology-led innovation will provide many of the answers as to how we solve a number of these problems."