The Fourth Industrial Revolution, the digital disruption of business by the information and communications sectors, is well underway in Australia and around the globe. The COVID-19 pandemic has only accelerated the pace of change. We are witnessing a proliferation of new platforms and new markets, with AI replacing human expertise – we are seeing the transformation of the firm, how we work and the nature of society. These seismic changes are all impacting the global distribution of economic growth and income. And alarmingly, among the OECD economies, as a share of GDP, Australia’s ICT sector is around half the average, and falling further over time – it is second-last, only above Mexico. Given the scope and speed of change, Australia is now confronted by a stark choice between becoming a tech innovator, and so a producer of economic profits and high-paying jobs, or stagnating. We are at a crossroads, and our policy choices today will determine whether we remain one of the wealthiest and happiest nations in the world, or see our global position continue to slide.
In Digital Revolution: A Survival Guide, Professor Simon Wilkie argues that, to preserve our status as one of the most desirable economies to live in, we need a policy revolution that addresses not just universal basic income, but tax policy, lifelong education, social inclusion and the nature of work. In short, the Fourth Industrial Revolution has the potential to usher in a period of sustained prosperity and increasing equality. But to achieve this demands no less than a rethinking of the social contract.
Professor Simon Wilkie is Dean of the Faculty of Business and Economics and Head of Monash Business School. He previously worked at the University of Southern California (USC) as professor and head of economics in the Department of Economics; professor of Economics, Communication and Law in the USC Gould School of Law; and executive director of the USC Center for Communication Law and Policy. Prior to his tenure at USC, he was an assistant professor of economics at California Institute of Technology (Caltech). Beyond academia, his appointments include chief economic policy strategist at Microsoft Corporation, and chief economist of the US Federal Communications Commission. Professor Wilkie has a PhD and MA in Economics from the University of Rochester, and a BComm (Hons) in Economics from the University of New South Wales. His research is in game theory, market design, and the economics of the communications industries. He has advised many of the world’s leading communications and IT firms and government agencies on market design, business strategy, regulation and competition policy issues.