Any role or industry that communicates with others is going to be profoundly affected by changes in digital technology, according to Sean Pringle.
“It’s something that has to be catered for, which means people are trained to use it and the technology is designed to be user-friendly and non-threatening.”
“If we want to maintain our competitiveness and become a place with attracts industries and jobs, and have a vision for the future, then we need to address the technical aspects – with internet access being number one.”
As Wikimedia Foundation’s Database Administrator, Sean says he’s found a role that allows him to telecommute from the Sunshine Coast with the rest of the world.
However, while the region’s lifestyle and quality of life are an advantage, Sean says it’s a “terrible place” for him to be located operationally, because of the quality of the internet.
“Internet access in Australia is very low quality compared to most of my colleagues around the world.”
Sean says the key to using digital technologies is providing educational and training opportunities so that people can learn to use it.
“We therefore need to provide business opportunities for people to create the technology, and then the educational opportunities.”
He says there are two ways to encourage innovation on the Sunshine Coast:
- Maintain our living standards; as it’s great place to live.
- Encourage companies to want to come here and set up shop by having good access to the internet and technology, and being the place to find staff, with technology skills or otherwise.
“There’s a high number people who start out in the technical field here on Coast and then have to go somewhere else because that’s where the work is,” Sean said.
“If we want to maintain our competitiveness and become a place with attracts industries and jobs, and have a vision for the future, then we need to address the technical aspects – with internet access being number one. We need to find a way to keep up and be innovative to get ahead.”
Sean suggests a centralised location for people to meet, work and generate ideas – similar to the Innovation Centre Sunshine Coast model – would provide a hot spot for young people in particular to “create the types of technologies that we want to use”.
“If you look at kids these days, they now have smartphones and are more digitally connected. In the last decade, touch interfaces on digital devices have made them tactile, and is the reason why these technologies are taking off.”
Sean Pringle joined the Wikimedia Foundation in June 2013. With about 150 staff based in San Francisco and thousands of volunteers around the world, Sean is the organisation’s only Database Administrator and is based here on the Sunshine Coast.
Sean’s role is to oversee the consistent running of the Wikipedia databases which store ever increasing amounts of information which is accessed by people through web browsers, tablets and smartphones.
“We run the same types of systems and hardware as Google, Facebook and Twitter. Now that we have sorted how to save and track data, our drive now is about how we can get more information out of the data that regular people will be interested in – it’s something that’s changing the digital landscape.”
Wikipedia Zero is an initiative of the Wikimedia Foundation to enable mobile access to Wikipedia free of data charges in developing countries.
“When you look at kids in places such as South Africa or India, their quality of life might be quite low, but amazing numbers of them have smart phones these days. A smart phone is almost ubiquitous around the world, and you’ll find it in places where you don’t expect it,” Sean said.
“If we can find ways to use those technologies to distribute information to people in ways that allow them to use it naturally, rather than have to learn to use it, it would give them opportunities to access some learning materials and use it as a stepping stone.”