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Private sector sparks inspiration for federal government to innovate: Bishop

The Australian government plans to lead by example when it comes to innovation, and wants to do that by drawing on inspiration from the private sector.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop has admitted the federal government can learn a lot from the private sector in how it can do things more efficiently, effectively, and productively with tax payers' dollars.

Speaking at the Vivid Ideas panel, Drones for Good, Bishop said that much like how the private sectors have begun working with startups, she has established in her own portfolio an ideas hub, dubbed the Innovation Exchange, to find new ways to solve foreign aid development challenges that exist in the region with the help of others.

She said the Department of Foreign Affairs is already working with a mix of people from the private sector, public sector, the United States, and the World Bank such as Michael Bloomberg and Ryan Stokes.

"We've got to do things differently to get better outcomes," she said, acknowledging the government needs to be an "exemplar" when it comes to innovation.

One of the earliest examples of when the government worked with the private sector, according to Bishop, was looking into how to improve the delivery of pharmaceuticals to remote areas of Papua New Guinea.

"People were still dying ... and yet kids were still getting access to cans of coke. So, I thought we need to mix the private sector supply chains with government procurement and now using private sector supply chains we can get drugs and pharmaceuticals to remote areas," she said.

Bishop added that drones will play an increasingly crucial role in the department's foreign aid program, as well as across different industry sectors, which she believes will be driven by the rise of robotics, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things.

"There are huge implications for commerce, for industry, and it seems that the only limitation on the use of drones is our own collective imagination and air traffic control regulations. But this implication will extend far beyond the military to government more broadly," she said.

In April, the federal government introduced new regulations on the use of drones in the country, which will take effect in late September 2016.

Under the new regulations, commercial operators of "very small remotely piloted aircraft" are no longer required to obtain a number of regulatory approvals to fly their unmanned vehicles.

At the end of last year, the federal government also committed AU$1.1 billion towards the launch of the National Innovation and Science Agenda, which Bishop believes will be a key driver in developing a "culture of innovation" in Australia.

Bishop's remarks echoed Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's point at the time of launch that the billion-dollar promise is expected to incentivise innovation and entrepreneurship, reward risk taking, and promote science, maths, and computing in schools.