Open data will drive startups: Turnbull

Releasing more government data to the public is one way to spur growth in Australia’s startup sector, according to Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

“One of the areas where Australia to date has been singularly behind the pack globally is in making big datasets available,” Turnbull said at a General Assembly and Google Australia event today at the Fishburners co-working space in Sydney.

“On the site, there are only 514 datasets available, compared to 210,930 on the US government’s site and just under 10,000 at the British government’s site,” he said.

“That is one area where we are determined to make much more data available so that many of the innovators ... will be able to access it and develop their own applications to enormous benefits in terms of productivity and ... giving citizens a better engagement with government.”

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In addition, Turnbull said a review continues on Australia’s employee share option taxation scheme, which has been criticised by the startup community for restricting startups’ ability to hire talent.

A change to the rules should happen “as soon as feasible”, he said.

The minister said his personal view is that employee share options “should not be taxed in a manner any differently here than in the United States”.

Google and General Assembly also launched their free online course called “Introduction to Startup Entrepreneurship” at the event. It is an eight-week course starting January 6 that aims to bring new people into the startup scene.

The course will include units on forming and developing an idea; design, branding and user experience; a technology overview; and how to do effective marketing.

General Assembly plans to choose 10 participants from the course to do an additional two-day “boot camp” at Google’s Sydney campus where they will be introduced to mentors and other key people in the industry.

“Our goal for this course is simple,” said General Assembly's regional director, Riley Batchelor. “We want to bring more people into the tech startup space around Australia and give them the head start that they need.”

Google Australia's engineering director, Alan Noble, who has headed up the #startupAUS group, said the course is another step to boosting Australia’s startup scene.

“We realise there’s no such thing as a silver bullet, but we hope that by providing practical know-how we can make it a little bit easier for aspiring entrepreneurs that have an idea for a business [to] actually take it to the next step and create a startup,” he said.

The online course is a “terrific initiative”, said Turnbull.

“There are enormous payoffs for our economy overall if we develop a more successful culture of innovation and technology.”

Turnbull agreed that funding for startups remains scarce due in large part to a risk-averse investment culture in Australia. However, he predicted that will change as more Australian startups find success.

“That not only creates successful and well-heeled technologists who will then in the style of Silicon Valley invest in other startups ... but it also of course makes investors as a class say, ‘Hey, this is not just a series of glorious dreams ending in disaster.’”

Follow Adam Bender on Twitter: @WatchAdam

Follow Techworld Australia on Twitter: @Techworld_AU

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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