CULTURE SEEKS E-BUSINESS DIRECTION
of the Ozeculture Conference, June 2001
originally published in Online
Currents, September 2001 and reprinted with kind permission of the
publishers Enterprise Information Management Pty Ltd.
Australian cultural industry paused in Melbourne last month to check the
compass on the e-business map.
Organised by the Department of Communications, Information Technology
and the Arts to help the industry rethink service delivery in the digital age,
the Ozeculture Conference attracted 300 delegates from libraries, museums,
arts institutions, broadcasters, multimedia companies and other organisations
to survey progress and prospects via presentations on art, business, play and
Rimmer, National Office of the Information Economy CEO, was the beacon.
The cultural industry, as a facilitator of knowledge embedded products
and services, is a potential wealth generator in the information economy.
To capitalise on opportunities, he said, we need to create a better
understanding of a sector consisting of project-oriented micro businesses,
freelance contractors and a small number of larger production/distribution
intermediaries around which smaller producers cluster.
Central issues include the standard problems of all small businesses,
new employment dynamics and models, and deficits in entrepreneurial business
skills and industry data.
is dependent on successful navigation of apparently contradictory and
competing forces, industry restructuring and converging information,
communication and broadcasting technology.
The cultural sector needs to:
a better map of its information entities
the new tools to transform business processes and business models
from a value chain model to a value network model
collaborative networks and clusters linked to distribution channels
infrastructure and business support systems to promote growth
investment funds in a more sustainable fashion
and maintain creativity in the ‘humdrum workaday world’
digital growth products with their industry roots.
Brennan, Policy Consultant to the NSW Film and Television Office, emphasised
of online transactions in the changing economy.
Some industries – the airline and banking industries, for example –
were experiencing significant reductions in transaction costs. In the labour
intensive cultural sector, however, not much had changed in thirty years:
costs are still rising, there are barriers to change, and there is
significantly less investment in technology, management and systems than in
compete, Brennan proposed that the industry commodify arts administration,
based on shared development of best practice models, business process
re-engineering and investment in technology and management.
In contrast to David Walker’s advice (see Reality Check below), his
view was that enterprises need to change everything if they want serious
gains, focus on the 80% common ground in shared enterprises and make 80% of
Condon, National Information Director of Enterprise Ireland, oversees the
embryonic Irish digital media industry in the Celtic tiger economy. Her
blueprint for generating wealth from the chemistry of creativity and
technology involves development of 15 industry sectors, including the
entertainment industry, investment in free education, availability of
graduates and technical degree courses, a productive work ethos, a world class
telecommunications infrastructure and low corporate tax.
The driver is content - content creation, content production and
content management, coupled with technology development.
One manifestation of this strategy is the Dublin Digital District, a
regenerated Guinness brewery precinct that will comprise physical and virtual
clusters of high-tech enterprises wired with shared services and broadband
technology, linked to educational institutions and media training companies,
and fuelled by strong investment and marketing.
bulk of the conference drew on local experiences and ideas under a number of
management, digitisation and e-business.
Chan was the prime example of disintermediation.
She writes and records her own music and maintains her own website
to successfully leapfrog barriers created by the record companies.
Libby Jeffery spoke about the OzAuthors online publishing project,
designed to prepare and protect creators in the digital distribution of
their works utilising digital rights management software.
Michael Tuite outlined ScreenSound’s phased, iterative approach
for dovetailing collection management imperatives with broadband delivery
of services. Danielle Freeman emphasised the benefits of cross sectoral
collaboration demonstrated by the successful PicturesAustralia project.
King, project manager of the Desart website, offered a case study in
information literacy – helping remote indigenous communities to make the
most of business opportunities through the use of technology.
Kylie Bryden-Smith from the Sydney Opera House, shared her
experiences in developing the e-business strategy of a major performing
arts venue in which online ticketing currently represents 12% of
box offices sales, a percentage expected to grow to 30% by 2003.
a conference that coincided with the launch of the culture and
recreation portal as one of 18 Australian government subject sites,
several presenters offered the wisdom of their experience. Kevin Sumption
from Australian Museum On Line highlighted the unpredictable,
constantly changing nature of site hits. His tips were: use log files to
track visitor patterns; redesign and repackage the site annually according
to user needs; use metadata; and employ e-lists for feedback.
Grant Malcolm, creator of Theatre Australia, the portal of the
Independent Theatre Association, recommended that we engineer a
collaborative dynamic in portal sites, remove barriers, and don’t charge
for low value content.
intellectual property minefield was
traversed in presentations by Delia Browne (Arts Law Centre of Australia),
Vanessa Rouse (New Wave Festival), and Vivien Johnson (Centre for Cross
spaces, interactivity and games..
Ross Gibson, Creative Director of Cinemedia's Australian Centre for the
Moving Image, urged institutions to mobilise audience sensibilities by
finding new concepts, rhythms and linkages to shape architectural and
This set the scene for David Stonier to describe Melbourne
Museum’s spectacularly successful Ice, an interactive cinema
experience, which improved visitor comprehension and appreciation.
Cliff Smith, South East Asia Regional Director of Novell and Councillor at
the Australian Business and Arts Foundation, led a session on the subtle
dynamics of sponsorship, which is as much dependent on relationships as
the bottom line.
Lynne Spender of the Australian Interactive Multimedia Industry
Association, the only
professional industry association represented at the conference,
outlined tentative lobbying strategies through an ICT Alliance.
Walker’s presentation Keeping an Even Keel failed to attract more
than a handful of punters away from the rival stream on virtual exhibitions,
but was worthy of plenary status. His thesis:
has been rife.
Organisations have given into the hype, have underestimated the cost, and
have overestimated needs and outcomes. The promise of easy results has
Catastrophic failures have been common.
of the Internet has been woolly.
The Internet is a utility medium like the telephone. Usage patterns are
well established and are not changing much.
projects cost money.
Project management is tough.
Ongoing maintenance is tough. Most IT departments don’t deliver
what they promise. Management irresponsibility dooms most online projects.
make the problem worse, he urged organisations to pursue overambitious
organisational strategies, follow overambitious timetables, use overambitious
systems and believe that huge new changes in online behaviours are just around
alleviate the problem, he suggested that organisations define business
objectives, start small and grow, remember the Pareto (80/20) rule, use
prototypes and adopt the new McKinsey formula for e-business success: find a
well defined group of customers, stick to a niche, avoid bleeding edge
technology, experiment ruthlessly during the early stages, avoid high-cost
partnerships and make websites easy to use.
IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION
conference was a timely event, particularly as it more or less coincided with
a major statement by a departing Australia Council chairman and the release of
the ALP’s Knowledge Nation policy.
digital journey since the arrival of the Internet has been exposed to the
vicissitudes of Government turnover, board and management churn and the
seductive power of new software and hardware.
the CD ROM era, the ALP in Creative Nation, released in 1994 by the
Department of Communications and the Arts (when information technology had not
yet achieved portfolio status), based its cultural policy on traditional
support of institutions and nurturing ‘cultural production in an information
age’ through the development of multimedia enterprises, co-operative
multimedia centres, multimedia forums, and Australia on CD and new media
the transfer of the reins to the Liberal Government in 1996 and the explosion
of the Internet, government policy shifted the emphasis from well being to
The strategy for the information economy, released in 1999, was
predicated on innovation and productivity to boost national income and living
standards. This involved development of skill, infrastructure, e-commerce,
Australian content, culture and information industries.
release of the
innovation action plan Backing Australia’s Ability in 2001 reflected
a further policy shift which acknowledged the importance of research and
Council Chairman Margaret Sears, in her retirement talk to the National Press
Club in June, rated government performance on cultural policy as one of
‘benign neglect’. She said that governments of both colours had been lazy
in developing local content, the culture industry was mysteriously absent from
the innovation agenda and education, as a core ingredient of creativity, had
ALP’s Knowledge Nation blueprint, released in July, suggests the ALP would
policy shortfalls in education and
research and ‘strengthen support for the arts and creative industries
through funding for the ABC, the Australia Council, the nation’s galleries
and other important public institutions.’
Shades of Creative Nation.
pronouncements and John Rimmer’s presentation suggest that the pendulum will
swing to a rounder view of culture, information management and technology in
Government circles over the next few years.
The Ozeculture conference was punctuated by old ideas re-badged as
new-found wisdom -
the need for shared information, integrated systems and business acumen
– suggesting that other organisations, too, may have learnt the lessons
articulated by David Walker.
compass seems well placed on the map. We just need to follow the arrow.
of the organisations and websites mentioned in this article
conference and papers www.acn.net.au/conference..
Law Centre of Australia www.artslaw.com.au
government’s Culture and Recreation portal www.cultureandrecreation.gov.au
Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts www.dcita.gov.au
Chan Music www.charliechan.com.au
on the Web www.shorewalker.com
Office of the Information Economy www.noie.gov.au
Opera House www.soh.nsw.gov.au