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Editor's note: This is a guest post by Head of the Bureau of Communications Research and Chief Economist, Dr Paul Paterson. 

Since establishing the Bureau of Communications Research (BCR), I’ve taken a keen interest in the role of information and communications technologies (or ICT) in driving productivity and, more broadly, our economy. Economists have long recognised the importance of technological innovation in generating and sustaining growth in productivity. This is well understood in industries like manufacturing where the use of new technologies and processes has tangible benefits. The widespread impact that more embedded technologies such as information and communications technologies (or ICT) can have on service industries and the economy is less-well understood. It is clear there are impacts and that they are substantial, but unpacking the benefits of ICT and like technologies from other factors, and their ongoing accurate measurement and analysis, remains elusive.

The 2015 Connected Continent II report, prepared for Google, discusses how digital technologies are transforming our economy, and the opportunities these technologies present. The report notes that increasing access to and use of ICT is not only further changing the way consumers and businesses interact, but also how businesses and industries are organising themselves. It provides some very useful firm-level analysis of trends in this area.

Significantly, the Connected Continent report acknowledges the difficulty in compiling, accessing and analysing data and information on the impact of ICT. ICT is disrupting conventional market structures and processes, and it is critical to future national growth that firms and governments understand these developments and harness the opportunities these innovations provide. As the Department of Communications’ independent economic and statistical research unit, we in the BCR are undertaking work to address this. We’ve established a project to update, improve and broaden the measurement and analysis of the digitisation of the economy and its effects on productivity performance. This work will highlight to stakeholders the economic significance of ICT and related technologies and, importantly, inform the debate and public policy development process.

We’re also working with the Australian Bureau of Statistics on a review of ICT data and statistics, and will be working with other stakeholders including the new Digital Transformation Office on opportunities to further engage the benefits of ICT. Stay tuned for more from us on this.

See our second leading indicators report to see what changes are happening in consumption patterns, industry growth and industry investment in the communications sector. Email us on bcr@communications.gov.au for more.

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The internet could have been purpose-built for Australia. It has connected us with the world, given us new opportunities to export our smarts, and helped our businesses transform to meet the needs of consumers around the world.

It has also put everyday Aussies firmly in the drivers’ seat, giving us all access to almost infinite information at the click of a mouse, giving us the ability to source products and services (and compare prices!) more easily, and opened up a world of new entertainment options.

We have proven to be such keen adopters of the internet and other technologies that it’s actually getting harder and harder to separate the digital economy from the rest of our economy, because digital is being embraced everywhere from healthcare to education, from agriculture to the delivery of government services.

That said, we’re always up for a challenge as are our friends at Deloitte, which is why we decided to update our 2011 report The Connected Continent, with a new methodology to measure the digitally-enabled economy’s increasing influence and spread.

The Connected Continent II numbers are in, and they’re big. Put simply, the digital economy is on fire.

  • The digitally-enabled economy contributed $79 billion (or ~5%) to GDP in FY2013-2014, making it larger than the agriculture, retail or transport industries 
  • It has grown by a whopping 50% since 2011 - faster, in fact, than Deloitte predicted back in 2011
  • What’s more, it could be worth $139BN by 2020 - primarily due to projected growth in e-commerce
  • FY2013-14 saw a $45BN productivity boost thanks to digital 
  • And the consumer benefits derived from digital are worth about $75BN - up 20% on 2011 

Of course, the numbers only tell some of the story. At Google, we’re lucky enough to hear first-hand about the small businesses that are experiencing rocket-propelled growth thanks to the web, and the non-profits that are using technology to make a huge difference in the delivery of their services. It’s these organisations, forming the backbone of our economy and our society, that stand the most to gain - and that’s why government and the business sector alike need to make sure that the opportunities described in this report are embraced with both hands.

The digitally-enabled economy is on fire. It’s a powerful engine that is driving growth and productivity gains in all sectors in Australia. Now, we have to make sure we don’t take our foot off the accelerator, because the best is yet to come.

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It's one thing to watch a robot being built. It's quite another to see it being built by a team of fourteen year olds.

Last week, Sydney Olympic Park played host to a sports event like no other - the FIRST regional robotics competition. Google has long supported FIRST and, together with Macquarie University, we were really pleased to help bring this competition to Australia

Over 1,000 students from Australia, China, Taiwan, Singapore, Korea and the US competed to build robots that could finish a number of different challenges. This included teams from schools all over Australia, like the awesome crew from Blacktown Girls High School below.

The Blacktown Girls High School team show off their 'Ultimate Moving Machine'

The FIRST Awards recognise design excellence, competitive play, sportsmanship and entrepreneurship. But most of all, they inspire young men and women to be science and technology leaders.

They teach students the computational skills they will need for the economy of the future - whether they end up working in computer science, banking, medicine or any number of other fields that are rapidly digitising.

The Sydney Olympic Park crowd watches on as students control their robots

Students participating in FIRST are 10 times more likely to study science, technology, engineering or mathematics at university. This is especially important for Australia, where our Chief Scientist has identified that Australia is lagging the world on STEM.

Building a robot is a lot of fun. It's also a vital part of preparing our kids for the jobs of the future. The next FIRST event is the Duel Down Under in June. To find out how to get involved, click here.


Posted by Sally-Ann Williams Engineering Community & Outreach Manager, Google Australia

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[Cross-posted from the Android Developer blog]

Whether it's a way to track workouts, chart the nighttime stars, or build a new reality and battle for world domination, Google Play gives developers a platform to create engaging apps and games and build successful businesses. Key to that mission is offering users a positive experience while searching for apps and games on Google Play. Today we have two updates to improve the experience for both developers and users.

A global content rating system based on industry standards 
Today we’re introducing a new age-based rating system for apps and games on Google Play. We know that people in different countries have different ideas about what content is appropriate for kids, teens and adults, so today’s announcement will help developers better label their apps for the right audience. Consistent with industry best practices, this change will give developers an easy way to communicate familiar and locally relevant content ratings to their users and help improve app discovery and engagement by letting people choose content that is right for them.

Starting now, developers can complete a content rating questionnaire for each of their apps and games to receive objective content ratings. Google Play’s new rating system includes official ratings from the International Age Rating Coalition (IARC) and its participating bodies, including the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), Pan-European Game Information (PEGI), Australian Classification Board, Unterhaltungssoftware Selbstkontrolle (USK) and Classificação Indicativa (ClassInd). Territories not covered by a specific ratings authority will display an age-based, generic rating. The process is quick, automated and free to developers. In the coming weeks, consumers worldwide will begin to see these new ratings in their local markets.

To help maintain your apps’ availability on Google Play, sign in to the Developer Console and complete the new rating questionnaire for each of your apps. Apps without a completed rating questionnaire will be marked as “Unrated” and may be blocked in certain territories or for specific users. Starting in May, all new apps and updates to existing apps will require a completed questionnaire before they can be published on Google Play.

An app review process that better protects users 
Several months ago, we began reviewing apps before they are published on Google Play to better protect the community and improve the app catalog. This new process involves a team of experts who are responsible for identifying violations of our developer policies earlier in the app lifecycle. We value the rapid innovation and iteration that is unique to Google Play, and will continue to help developers get their products to market within a matter of hours after submission, rather than days or weeks. In fact, there has been no noticeable change for developers during the rollout.

To assist in this effort and provide more transparency to developers, we’ve also rolled out improvements to the way we handle publishing status. Developers now have more insight into why apps are rejected or suspended, and they can easily fix and resubmit their apps for minor policy violations.

Over the past year, we’ve paid more than $7 billion to developers and are excited to see the ecosystem grow and innovate. We’ll continue to build tools and services that foster this growth and help the developer community build successful businesses.

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[Cross posted from the YouTube Creator Blog]

You share incredible videos with your fans every second of the day, but what if you could share even more in that video? Like, sharing the entire moment that you’re filming?

You could let viewers see the stage and the crowd of your concert, the sky and the ground as you wingsuit glide, or you could even have a choose-your-own-adventure video where people see a different story depending on where they look. Only you know what’s possible. That’s why today we are starting to support 360-degree video uploads on YouTube, to continue giving you all the best resources to connect with your viewers.
   
People can watch your videos on the existing YouTube app for Android, and by moving the phone or tablet around they’ll see all the different angles while the video plays. They can do the same on youtube.com or embedded videos on Chrome by using the mouse to drag the point of view around, and we’re working to bring this to iPhone, iPad and other devices soon.

Creating and uploading 360-degree videos on YouTube
To make it easy for you to create and upload 360-degree videos to YouTube, we’ve been working with companies across the industry. Bublcam, Giroptic’s 360cam, IC Real Tech’s Allie, Kodak’s SP360 and RICOH THETA are 360-degree video cameras compatible with YouTube that are available today or are coming soon. You can find more technical information on the video format, along with a script you need to run on the video file to insert the correct metadata. We’re working to make this automatic, but in the meantime, this script will make sure your video uploads to YouTube as a 360-degree video.

If you’re around the YouTube Space L.A., our Creator Tech team is also hosting a technology showcase from now through April, where you can try out these new cameras and learn new techniques from our staff. Remember when the vantage point of the fisheye lens blew your mind? Now let’s see what you can do with every possible angle at your recording fingertips.

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You might not work in a small business. But chances are you know someone who does. Five million Australians make their living from servicing their local community. It’s a tough job. It’s also a vital one: one third of Australia’s GDP is generated by small businesses.

Stuart Maconachie from Bay Fish N Trips 

When small businesses thrive, so does Australia. The good news is that the internet can be a huge boost to local businesses, helping them prosper and grow. It can help save them money, because cloud computing is cheaper than hosting a server. It can save time, for example by calculating efficient delivery routes based on real-time traffic information. And it can help generate income from customers who have never heard of a particular business until it shows up in search results.

The thing is, small business owners don’t alway have the time or resources to figure out how to do all this. That’s why last year we introduced Google My Business, to make the internet simpler and easier for small business owners.

And it’s why, in partnership with the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, we are taking Google on the road, visiting five towns across Australia and helping put their businesses on the map. 

Today we kicked off in Frankston, in the presence of the Small Business Minister, Bruce Billson. And we met Matt Bede, who set up Mornington Peninsula Brewery in an industrial side street, then relied on Google Maps to help people to beat a path to his door. We also met Sandra Watt and Stuart Maconachie, from fishing charter business Bay Fish N Trips, who told us that Google AdWords nets them adventure-seeking customers who had never previously heard of the business.

Harry Ozkoch from Anny's Jewellers getting some tips

Our next stop is Dubbo. We can’t wait to get out and meet some more of the people who are out there building the local businesses that will power the Australian economy into the future.

Posted by Rich Flanagan, Head of Small Business Marketing

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Sydney is coming together to celebrate Mardi Gras. But many young Australians still face homophobia or transphobia.

We teamed up with Twenty10, a nonprofit that provides LGBTI youth with emergency housing, to create a nationwide musical collaboration to raise awareness. We asked Australians to contribute a lyric to a love song, and show that love is stronger than hate.

More than 1,000 Australians contributed to the song, including musicians like Guy Sebastian, Megan Washington and the Jezabels. We used a Google Doc to collect lyrics from multiple locations simultaneously at Fair Day. Singer-songwriter Toby Martin then chose his favourite lyrics, and turned them into a beautiful song.

Watch the story of the collaboration here:





You can also download the song for free on Google Play. And for every time it’s downloaded until Mardi Gras ends, we’ll donate $1 to Twenty10 (up to $50,000).

As Toby sings, love is for everyone.

Posted by Andrew Ure, Communications Manager, Google Australia