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By Paul Bentley

Summary of presentation to NSW KM Forum, Standards Australia, 1 April 2004. 

Paul reviewed the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ measures of Australia’s knowledge-based economy and society, released as a web-based compendium in September 2003 and based on an earlier discussion paper, Measuring a Knowledge-based Economy and Society: an Australian Framework, published in 2002.  

Government policy is shaped by the premise that an increased level of knowledge in society leads to economic growth. This direction is influenced by the work of international bodies such as OECD and APEC in defining and benchmarking the ingredients of knowledge-based economies and societies and developing the rationale for associated  programs. The transition to a knowledge-based economy and society, the ABS discussion paper argues, needs structural change rather than incremental or windfall change. 

A measurement framework is needed to drive this change. The ABS chose a suite of indicators as its preferred framework, influenced particularly by the work of APEC, rather than a single index, a direct measurement approach, and other approaches identified in 2002 discussion paper.  

The Australian framework consists of three core dimensions: innovation and entrepreneurship; human capital; and information and communications technology. Two other dimensions – contexts; economic and social impacts – make up the package, although these are not currently available on the ABS website.  In addition to the four levels of pages linking dimensions, characteristics, indicators, tables, charts and commentary, the ABS site has information on associated projects, activities and tools.  These include, for example, a survey measuring Australian business innovation, expected to be completed at the end of 2004, and the gratis e-newsletter Science and Technology Statistics Update Bulletin

Drawing on research from local and overseas bodies such OECD, European Commission, DIST, DEST and ARC, 99 More Unuseless Japanese Inventions, Arts Business’s Measuring the Arts, The Arts Council of England’s Measuring the Economic and Social Impacts of the Arts, The White House’s Guidelines for Ensuring and Maximizing the Quality, Objectivity, Utility and Integrity of Information Disseminated by Federal Agencies, Sexton’s Good Intelligence Couldn’t Make Itself Heard Against the Noise of McNamara’s Band (SMH 1.4.04), Neustadt and May’s Thinking in Time: The Uses of History for Decision Makers, IBIS’s industry and enterprise indicators, Stewart’s Intellectual Capital, Burk & Horton’s Infomap, Zairi’s Benchmarking for Best Practice, Allee’s The Knowledge Evolution,  Davenport’s Information Ecology, Tiwani’s The Knowledge Management Toolkit and selected posts to ACT-KM,  Paul briefly touched on indicator types, principles, limitations, pitfalls and lessons. He asked whether metrics for value, performance, knowledge management and a knowledge based economy and society were the same or different,  whether subjectivity can be introduced into statistical frameworks (such as those incorporated in Measuring the Arts, another thin air business), and to what extent the ABS framework can be adapted for use in enterprises.  

Finally, he posed the questions: what are the implications for the NSW KM Forum? Is there a KM community in Australia? Who represents it? Is it possible – or even desirable – for it to speak with a unified voice? What is its position on the ABS Framework?  How does it intend to contribute to the development of the Framework? 

The ABS compendium and associated information is available at the Australian Bureau of Statistics site Paul’s article Libraries in the Online Environment: Part 1: Contexts (Online Currents January/February 2004), briefly surveying recent research on knowledge-based economies societies and national information policies, is now available with a bibliography on the Wolanski Foundation site. He would be happy to make his PowerPoint presentation and accompanying rough notes available to anyone who is interested.  


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