Humans at the heart of our digital future

1 May 2018

The key to making the most of tomorrow’s technology is our humanity, heard UTS graduates at a special discussion panel and networking event in April.

More than 150 members of the UTS alumni community gathered in Hong Kong to hear some of our most tech-savvy and innovative graduates and academics share their experiences, insights and advice, discussing what good culture and good practice can achieve as organisations prepare for the challenges and opportunities of tomorrow.

As Google’s Managing Director of Sales and Operations in Hong Kong, panellist Leonie Valentine (Master of Arts in Communication Management, 1999) is placed at the heart of digital innovation. She argued that curiosity and respect are two of the key qualities of organisations that successfully navigate fast paced environments with strategy and vision.

“At Google we have this natural curiosity – it’s built in at every level in the organisation. We’re encouraged to go and ask big questions, and think really big about how we can provide products that people really use,” she said.

“Respect is also at the core of our culture: respect for our users, respect for the opportunity that’s been given because of who we are, and respect for each other. It creates a very interesting culture in terms of how you want to challenge the status quo, respectfully, how you want to get things done make the most of the opportunity to do good.”

Fellow panellist and UTS alumna Melissa Brown (Bachelor of Business Marketing, 1995 and Master of Business Administration, 2006) agreed that an innovative and curious mindset was essential for an organisation to adapt to change, particularly in digital technology.

“With eight billion people on the planet, there is so much data that there aren’t enough human minds in those particular disciplines for us to solve those problems.”

At Telstra, where Brown works as Head of International, Field, Content and Digital Marketing, the company is focused on “looking at both the changes that are ahead that we’ve got to face as equally the opportunity that will help us grow.”

“These changes in digital technology are generally divided into three main areas – the digital platforms point of view and network; digital ways of working – what we can do to in our businesses to be better, more efficient, more innovative; and the digital customer experience – areas around personalisation, artificial intelligence (AI), data and analytics.

Addressing the prescient issue of the future of work and the types of new roles that may emerge, Dr Matthew Holt from UTS Insearch said that despite some dramatic predictions about certain jobs becoming obsolete, one thing that is for certain is that the “knowledge economy” is here to stay.

“Information and communication are what is needed to address the three key issues that we face at the moment, which is health and our ageing population; urban planning; and of course, AI,” said Dr Holt. “The people that train in the knowledge economy will be needed to address these issues.”

Valentine added that real benefits can be found in using machine learning and AI to focus on these “big, human problems”.

“With eight billion people on the planet, there is so much data that there aren’t enough human minds in those particular disciplines for us to solve those problems,” she said.

“When we think about machine learning and AI, our focus should be that we need more people with humanity to be technologists. You need more people to understand that the reasons we’re doing these things is for benefit, and if we’re successful – and universities have an important role here, in attracting the right people that want to solve these problems – then we’ll have some great outcomes.”

The evening was hosted by Professor William Purcell, UTS Deputy Vice-Chancellor International, who paid tribute to the achievements of the panellists and UTS alumni across the globe.

“In whatever field our alumni work in, what binds them together is their sense of social justice, their passion for technology and innovation, and a drive to build a better tomorrow,” he said.

“Each of you are a part of this remarkable community of graduates who are working to make a difference – working at the edge of the latest trends and technologies – and I am delighted that so many of you remain connected to the university – to share your expertise and to embrace a desire for lifelong learning.”

Earlier that day, on the eve of his retirement, Professor Purcell was honoured as a leading figure in supporting higher education in the Asia-Pacific region.

The Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), an international association of educational institutions, awarded Professor Purcell its 2017 CASE Asia-Pacific Distinguished Service Award.

The award recognises Professor Purcell’s “distinguished accomplishments that have made a significant and lasting impact on UTS’s future… and his pivotal role in laying the foundation for CASE governance in the Asia-Pacific region”. Read more about Professor Purcell’s award.

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View images from the event below

2018 UTS Hong Kong Alumni Reception

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