It's somewhat ironic that I'm writing this for Australian Reseller News' first Australian Made special issue from a hotel room in New York.
The funny thing is you still run into more than your fair share of Australians whenever you travel overseas on IT-related business. Australia produces a huge number of very talented and brilliant IT people, many of whom are genuine power brokers in some of the world's biggest IT companies.
If Australia's indigenous IT industry has problems, it's certainly not for a lack of talented people.
In this issue of ARN, we've tried to give special prominence to Australian-owned vendors and channel companies. More so than other IT publications in Australia, ARN editors and reporters are constantly out talking to Australian owners of IT businesses, because the nature of the channel is it's largely indigenous.
As a result, ARN journalists generally come to develop a real belief in the worth of the Australian IT industry. We're a fiercely patriotic team, as can be particularly noted around cricket and footy season, and we almost always try to champion the cause of local companies. This issue is a special reminder of how important that charter is.
At such times, it's useful to take stock of how successful we have been as an industry. While it would be unfair to class us as insignificant on the world stage, when you consider how much we have going for us, it's generally accepted that we could be doing a lot better.
A lot of the blame has been levelled at Australia's tax system. Capital Gains Tax and a very high top marginal tax rate has hardly been a raging incentive. However, you may not be surprised to hear that I have my own particular theory on the subject.
It's often said that Australia lags a couple of years behind the US. That has opened up many an opportunity for Australian entrepreneurs to take what have been successful business models in the US and apply them to the Australian market. As a result Australian IT companies have become very adept at providing great levels of service to their customers. But how much real innovation is likely to result from the simple imitation of US models? Not a lot.
This is particularly worrying if you share my belief that the gap between what Australian companies are doing and what US companies are doing is closing rapidly. The globalisation brought about by the Internet and network computing is allowing US companies to expand into international markets far sooner than was the case in the past. That two-year window of opportunity that Australian companies had to establish themselves in the local market is shrinking rapidly.
There needs to be a shift in thinking from the entrepreneurs that drive Australia's IT industry. Rather than trying to carve out an already invented opportunity in the local market, it's time for Australians to start thinking in world terms. That means not "reinventing the wheel". It means using true Australian ingenuity to find and exploit niches that nobody in the world has yet attacked.
Imitation may well still be the sincerest form of flattery, but it's not going to be enough to help our industry turn a buck in the new millennium.