Thursday, 27 March 2014

Digital Canberra Challenge awards ACT innovators

Deputy Chief Minister Andrew Barr MLA has launch Round 2 of the Digital Canberra Challenge and presented prizes to the winners of Round 1 of the Competition.

The Digital Canberra Challenge, an initiative of Growth, Diversification and Jobs: A Business Development Strategy for the ACT, aims to create a more effective and efficient government by working with local innovators to develop new and improved digital government services. The Program has been developed to align closely with the ACT Government’s broader Digital Canberra agenda.

The Digital Canberra Challenge features two competition rounds a year with Round 1 of the Competition launched in August 2013. Since then:

  • The general public and members of the ACT Public Service have put forward a total of 21 unresolved business requirements, or challenges.
  • From this pool of challenges, two were selected and ACT innovators were invited to submit proposed solutions for the two challenges.
  • Eleven ACT innovators submitted their proposed solutions, and two teams were selected to develop proof-of-concept prototypes and compete for the prizes.
  • Over the past three months, DigiACTive has partnered with the ACT Government Territory and Municipal Services Directorate (TAMS) to develop a proof-of-concept prototype to provide an online permit approval service that allows people to submit their applications online with guidance and checklists.
  • Design Managers Australia has partnered with the ACT Government Justice and Community Service Directorate (JACS) to develop a ‘proof-of-concept’ prototype to set up an online facility which allows people to view service availability time slots and then book and pay for it.

In what was an extremely competitive Round 1, the DigiACTive team, comprising ofthree ANU undergraduates, has emerged as the inaugural winner taking home $12,500 in prize money.  Design Managers Australia, a Canberra-based specialist service design agency working with private, public, community and volunteer organisations, received $7,500 as runner-up.

The work that both companies delivered in a partnership arrangement with the ACT Directorates has been exceptional. The government recognises that the best outcome for the competition would be for the companies to continue the development work commercially with the directorates. The ACT Government will be looking at ways of progressing this.

At the award ceremony, Minister Barr also launched Round 2 of the Digital Canberra Competition. From a list of approximately 30 challenges submitted for the round by ACT public servants and others in the community, the 2 challenges chosen are:

Challenge 1: Better access to hospital info' about patient's progress; facilities and services; and
Challenge 2: Improved ACT service delivery through a streamlined personal identity system.

To find out more or to participate the challenge, visit the Digital Canberra Challenge website External Link - opens in new window.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Chief Minister's ‘State of the Territory’ address

On Thursday 13 March 2013, Chief Minister Katy Gallagher MLA delivered the ‘State of the Territory’ address. In her address, the Chief Minister outlined the ACT Government’s commitment to supporting local jobs, developing the city centre and transitioning Canberra to a modern, digital city.

If you missed her speech, below are some of the key points raised or you can read the full ‘State of the Territory’ address on our website.

  • The ACT Government’s long-term commitments to economic reform and fairness in our community continues.
  • The ACT Government awaits the handing down of the next federal budget and the government’s Commission of Audit with interest.
  • It’s six months since the federal election and the start of a series of cuts to Commonwealth agencies; two years since the federal spending contraction began in earnest; and six years since the Global Financial Crisis first sent tremors through our economy.
  • Throughout this period, the fundamentals of the ACT economy have remained strong:
    • forecast economic growth for 2013-14 is unchanged from last June (1.75%)
    • retail trade figures are positive (growth of 3.4% in year to January 2014)
    • population growth remains steady, and
    • employment growth in our economy is slow, but steady.
  • Unemployment remains at 3.8% – the lowest in the country. This is helping keep other economic vitals such as housing and retail activity in shape.

Stimulus and job creation

  • Protecting the livelihoods of working Canberrans remains a core priority throughout 2014.
  • The ACT Government has worked hard to earn economic credentials, a strong budget position and a triple A credit rating and these advantages will be used strategically.
  • The ACT Government has created capacity for government to invest in productive infrastructure which attracts private sector buy-in and delivers a long-term dividend to our economy. The $480 million Canberra Airport project is an example of this.
  • The ACT Government have been able to act to pump-prime the construction sector through the stimulus package announced recently. Find out more about the stimulus package.

ACT Budget

  • The ACT Budget – as 9% of our economy – can respond to federal belt‑tightening, but not savage austerity.
  • The ACT’s exposure is easy to see:
    • the Commonwealth’s ACT workforce is three times the size of our own and we cannot absorb large redundancies
    • our GST revenue continues to decline relative to the services it’s supposed to pay for and further cuts to that will hurt
    • direct funding for vital reforms and community services, if cut, would undermine hard-won gains for our schools and some of our most vulnerable citizens.
  • The ACT Government is resolute in delivering on promises made including our commitments under national reforms.
  • The ACT is heading towards a 9% improvement in the efficiency of our tax base by 2016-17 – in other words, a yield of $57 million for the ACT economy which is no longer absorbed by administration and compliance.
  • Sales activity in the commercial sector has increased following the decision to drop commercial conveyance duty to 5.5% for properties valued at $1.65 million or greater – now amongst the lowest rates in the country.
  • The ACT Government’s support for small business through the reduction of payroll tax is also delivering important support, both to individual businesses and to the government’s drive for diversification.

City Plan and Capital Metro

  • The Chief Minister released the final version of the City Plan (previously released in draft form) which shows a step forward in the transformation of our city centre. Find out more about the city plan External Link - opens in new window.
  • The City Plan creates a blueprint for the transformation including: a framework for extensive residential growth in Civic; plans to progress major infrastructure projects; and a permanent bridging of the divide between the city and the lake.
  • The government will be announcing fast tracking some of the next stages of the City to Lake Project. Find out more about the West Basin Waterfront design fast tracking External Link - opens in new window.
  • The Chief Minister will be promoting the project in China next month as part of the Prime Minister’s trade delegation, and the Deputy Chief Minister will be doing the same in Singapore and in Hong Kong in June.
  • One of the defining features of the City Plan is the introduction of light rail as the spine of our future public transport network and catalyst for an economic resurgence along Northbourne Avenue. Capital Metro is not only a transport solution, it’s a city-building project – a major capital investment which delivers against other key priorities.

Related Priorities

  • The City Plan reflects broader elements of the government’s productivity and public health agenda relating to support for active living.


  • The ACT Government has a diversification agenda which is lead by the Deputy Chief Minister, and is heavily focused on growing the economy through human capital. This program is yielding results: sustained growth in higher education exports; our IT industry maturing and attracting global attention; and regional tourism continuing to grow.
  • The ACT’s tertiary institutions are at the heart of our growth as a knowledge-based economy.
  • More than 10,000 international students are spending more than $440 million in the ACT economy each year and the education sector now generates 11% of our tourist activity.
  • Looked at in its whole, this sector contributes $2 billion to our economy. No other jurisdiction has an education industry so significant to its makeup, which is why the ACT must continue to assert itself as Australia’s learning capital.
  • The ACT Government is working at a strategic level to identify the future opportunities in this sector and promote it to the world – most notably through the StudyCanberra program.

Digital Canberra

  • The Chief Minister released the Digital Canberra Action Plan. Find out more about the Digital Canberra Action Plan External Link - opens in new window.
  • Backed by a $4.4 million investment, the plan shows the government’s vision to develop and promote Canberra as a modern, dynamic, digital city. It provides the roadmap of how the government is going to accelerate business engagement with the digital economy and help businesses access new customers and markets.
  • Initiatives include:
    • The roll out of free Wi-Fi in Canberra will start in Civic from the second half of this year. Free Wi-Fi will then roll out in other town centres and commercial precincts.
    • Garema Place becoming the centre of digital innovation in Canberra through the creation of a dedicated digital space and digital screen. 
    • Digital Business Capacity Building Workshops which will respond to research the government carried out last year around the digital capabilities and needs of the ACT business community.
    • Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics internships which will offer the private sector support in training of their staff.
    • The Innovation Pitch Panel which will create a forum for local innovations aimed directly at the ACT Government.
To find out more about these key points read the full ‘State of the Territory’ address.

Friday, 14 March 2014

QuintessenceLabs named Australia’s most innovative small company by AIIA

2013 ACT Emerging Exporter winner QuintessenceLabs has added another title to its belt, being named Australia’s most innovative small company by the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA).

The prestigious recognition resulted from a comprehensive national study of the innovation culture of organisations conducted for the AIIA by the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS). The study, led by Professor Steve Burdon from the UTS, examined ten requirements for a superior culture of innovation including vision, integration of innovation, adaptability to change, inclusive culture and action orientation.

Dr Vikram Sharma, Founder and CEO of QuintessenceLabs said “We are honoured to have received this recognition and are deeply grateful to the AIIA and UTS”.

“As Professor Burdon noted, the research recognised organisations for their development of a culture supportive of the development and execution of good ideas, taking measured risks and focused on growth. I am privileged to work with a team that embraces these traits.”

Canberra-based QuintessenceLabs is a Quantum Cyber Security company and the world’s first to harness the quantum properties of lasers to deliver a new generation of cryptographic protection for data.

Through combining information communication technologies with the laws of quantum physics, they work to protect digital information for the purposes of national security and the economic prosperity of a variety of businesses and industries.

Earlier this year the company successfully completed a global capital raise and established a team in the United States.

“QuintessenceLabs’ advanced data security solutions are experiencing strong demand from federal and enterprise customers”, said Dr Sharma.

”Our recent successful fund raise has enabled us to appoint a high calibre leadership team to drive growth in North America.”

This success comes after QuintessenceLabs won the Emerging Exporter Award at both the 2011 and 2013 ACT Chief Minister’s Export Awards. Read more about QuintessenceLabs and the ACT Chief Minister’s Export Awards.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

IOU app helps to mix friends and money

Screen shots of QuicklyPay.It app

Splitting bills and other expenses with friends, flatmates and family members can often get awkward, but a new app by two Canberra developers aims to take this pain away! makes dealing with split payments - from a group of friends contributing to a birthday gift to flatmates sharing the power bill - quick, easy and secure. The app makes everything transparent so people can see in real time who has paid whom, and who still owes money, while messaging lends a personal touch.

The app allows users to pay their friends using a debit or credit card. Secured with a validated level one PCI DSS card processing provider and advanced encryption methods, securely transfers money between friends while protecting everyone's financial details.

As well as using a debit or credit card, the app is the first of its kind to allow people to pay friends using the digital currency, Bitcoin. Bitcoin holders simply type in their Bitcoin address or scan their Bitcoin QR code and sends the recipient the amount in Australian dollars. has been developed by local business Imagine Team. The project received support through the ACT Government's Innovation Connect grant program.

Zakaria Bouguettaya, one of the developers of, said the idea for the app came about when he went for dinner with friends at a restaurant. As the restaurant had a policy against splitting bills, Bouguettaya ended up paying for everyone.

"The problem came about when I wanted to chase everyone up for payment. Individually, $20 wasn't worth an aggressive push to get the money back, but in total $120 wasn't something I could ignore," Bouguettaya said.

"I didn't want to be seen as a cheapskate, but at the same time I realised most of my friends had simply forgotten to pay me back. From there, my co-developer Andrew and I started to conceptualise an app that could manage these awkward social payment situations for you."

As well as providing the ability to transfer money, the app has a messaging feature meaning people can add the story behind a payment, discuss finer details and inject a bit of personality. shows you when someone's seen your message, adding a layer of accountability.

The app also takes away the hassle and awkwardness of chasing people for money by sending automatic reminders. Group payments are highly transparent, notifying everyone when a person makes a payment in real time, acting as a reminder to others with an added element of peer pressure.

The app is free and available to download for iOS and Android. To find out more visit the websitExternal Link - opens in new window.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Business Connect March Newsletter

Screen shot of Newsletter

The March issues of our Business Connect Newsletter is now available.

In this issue:
  • Sydney Building businesses re-opening their doors
  • Canberra-based Lithicon sold for $76 million
  • Canberra business helps Seahawks to Super Bowl victory
  • IOU app helps to mix friends and money
  • 2014 Telstra Australian Business Awards
  • Making Canberra even smarter!
  • How to effectively promote your event among local audiences
  • Upcoming events
View the Business Connect March Newsletter