How do you use technology/policy to improve citizens’ lives? Tell us about your role or organisation.
Working with new technologies or the implementation of new technologies is a privileged job. You are focused on opportunities, problem solving and doing things better. I don’t work with any one technology; my job is to do medium- to long-term foresight studies of the impacts of a variety of new and emerging technologies (AI, blockchain, big data analytics, platforms).
Foresight techniques examine how technologies intersect with other trends – such as political, economic, social, legal and environmental trends. We get to write stories (scenarios) about the future based on what we see happening now. We hope that by looking further ahead we can make the best use of technology, and mitigate the major risks, and thereby help leaders make better decisions.
What has been the most exciting thing that you worked on in 2018?
I’m currently working on the future of Vietnam’s digital economy. I’ve worked with Vietnam’s Ministry of Science and Technology, and travelled across Vietnam to really get to know a lot of the current concerns and ambitions related to new technologies and how they will affect people’s lives. The study is being watched by global organisations – such as the OECD and the World Bank – as an example of how foresight techniques can be used in one of the world’s most rapidly developing economies. I’ll be presenting the final report (due to be released in March) at a number of global forums. It is very exciting.
If you were to share one piece of advice that you learned in 2018, what would it be?
Personal privacy and civil rights of people in a world with growing information asymmetry is a ballooning issue. My advice is to be aware of legislation and other developments in the use of personal data. That, and always travel with electrolyte powder in case of tummy bugs!
What tool or technique particularly interests you for 2019?
I’m interested in ways to forge collaborations – between governments, and between governments and businesses – especially the start-up sector. I’m not a big fan of government grants, but think that work contracts are powerful tools for innovation. Procurement for the public sector, and public sector innovation, can pave the way for the development of new technologies across the broader economy. This is through the development of new technology, not just implementation. Platform technologies are also going to assist but deep collaboration will come about through shared work.
What are your priorities for 2019?
To engage with more countries and create a foresight community for policy-makers the Asia Pacific region. We’re hoping to convene an inaugural meeting of an Asia Pacific Foresight Community in Australia in September 2019. Stay posted!
What is one skill that has helped you the most throughout the course of your career?
Interpersonal skills and being proactive – being respectful, curious, and actively listening, and then actually doing things with the information you have. Having a background in statistics has also been helpful, but the interpersonal skills that build trust are what really matter.
What advancements do you predict will happen in your field in the next ten years?
I think we’ll see the development of a lot of shared data platforms with AI and predictive analytics, which will mean foresight studies can be supplemented more accurate modelling. CSIRO|Data61 will be developing some of these tools, a lot of which will be on open-source software.
Coffee, yoga, music… what powers you through your day?
I get a coffee in a keep-cup on my way into work, and I always love relaxing on my walk home with podcasts and music. I love hearing new ideas, and I love helping women in the tech space. But my family power me the most. My weekends are beautiful when I’m just hanging out with my husband and my daughter over a long breakfast, talking politics and meeting friends at the markets. My work is fantastic, but it wouldn’t be possible without the relaxation of weekends at home.