Global API conference series APIdays will kick off its 2016 international program in Melbourne when APIdays Australia is held on March 1 & 2.
APIdays Australia — with the theme Platforms for Innovation — is hoping to reinvigorate what organizers believe is a local landscape with a lot of unrealized potential when it comes to API uptake.
On the one hand, Australia has a digital business environment that is ideally suited to take advantage of APIs. Given the time zone differences with the United States and Europe, APIs can provide self-serve, 24/7 access so that Australian businesses can collaborate and provide their services in an international marketplace. This is the sort of API advantage that has helped Australian and New Zealand startups like Atlassian, Envato, MYOB, APIMATIC and Xero to overcome the tyranny of distance and meet customer needs around the globe. Where geography and local cultural knowledge is to their advantage, Australia could be an ideal hub for business seeking to meet the technology needs of fast-growing Asian economies. The work of banks and telecommunications companies are already seizing this positioning opportunity and extending out regionally. Finally, Australia’s mining economy should mean that there is a financial war chest that the country can use to strengthen its digital infrastructure and support a new wave of tech startups to emerge and compete internationally.
But on the other hand, as co-organizer Saul Caganoff from digital consultancy firm Sixtree has pointed out in a recent editorial for the local industry journal Startup Smart, “Australia’s window of advantage to be a digital leader is shrinking”. Caganoff points to a Harvard Business Review study from last year that assessed Australia’s digital leadership as part of a group of countries currently ‘stalled out’ that need to “redouble on innovation and continue to seek markets beyond domestic borders”, according to the HBR researchers. Regionally, Australia has had a complicated relationship with Asia which has often seen the country try to remain distant from its closest neighbors. And in Australia’s post-mining economy, there are signs that business is faltering, with most industries reporting drops in planned investment on new ventures.
Caganoff believes APIs could be a big part of the answer for Australia’s next era of growth and opportunity. He points to initiatives in government, health and fintech as key areas where Australia is rethinking how APIs could be at the heart of a new economic and industrial engine.
For APIdays Australia, speakers with government API experience include Lindsay Holmwood, Head of Development at the newly formed Federal Government Digital Transformation Office. Already the team, led by respected API Government leader Paul Shetler, has helped spearhead a government-wide API-enabled CMS system that lets agencies more quickly share information with each other and the public via API. It is a strategy that longtime Government tech expert Craig Thomler, another APIdays speaker, has encouraged. His work in Government started with creating APIs so that the Department of Education could share essential information directly with families via widgets on school websites. At APIdays Australia, Thomler will speak about the strategic impact of APIs for Government. His talk follows Anne-Marie Elias, Chief Disrupter and Innovation Consultant who has challenged current models of innovation in the Australian public service and called for a new approach that takes the API hackathon ethic to “shift things radically”, making innovation something that is “meaningful and touches the lives of all sectors of our society”. Other Government speakers discussing APIs will include Liming Zhu, head of a Data61 at the country’s science lab CSIRO.
Health APIs are also a spotlight at APIdays Australia, with speakers including Shelby Switzer from U.S. startup Healthify, Tim Kelsey, Commercial Director of Telstra Health, and Bruce Haefele, Chief Architect at HealthDirect.
Fintech speakers include several of the country’s leading banks (with a keynote from James Bligh from the National Australia Bank, with innovation and digital leads at ANZ Bank and Bankwest also speaking), alongside talks from several fintech startups including the large accounting software companies Xero and MYOB, payment provider PayPal/Braintree, and emerging players like Tyro Payments.
It is easy within the pages of an API journal like ProgrammableWeb to assume that the world is on board with APIs, but in reality, APIs are still at an early stage of uptake. As enterprise thought leader Dion Hinchcliffe has previously pointed out, ProgrammableWeb’s directory of APIs — the most comprehensive in the world — lists 14,680 APIs at current count. “Imagine an internet of just 14,000 webpages,” Hinchcliffe reminds us as a comparison. When taking this perspective, the potential for APIs is till huge and largely untapped. APIdays Australia is hoping to take that sort of perspective and drive a new local economy on the back of the API opportunity.
APIdays Australia will be held March 1 & 2 at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre. Registrations are still open to attend.