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Well not really but that’s what it seemed like. In reality he was the Baker from Beechworth, Tom O’Toole, “one of the best motivational speakers in Australia” who performed for the student session at the TASICT 2016 Technology and Innovation Conference in Hobart. Despite the Australian accent, I couldn’t help being reminded of John Cleese as Tom very enthusiastically spoke of his experience in building the Beechworth Bakery into a phenomenal business success that also turned the town around. His on-stage antics were such that I was expecting him to break into a classic funny walk at any moment. His message was simple but clear, love your customers love your staff and go for it. Don’t blame the outside world for your problems as most business restrictions are internal, either inside your head or inside the four walls of your business meetings. I enjoyed the presentation but I’m not sure it was relevant to the many secondary students in the audience, unless there were some budding entrepreneurs among them.

The conference was heavily focused on education and student involvement. There were 100’s of students in attendance and getting involved in a code club, where we saw primary school children developing code, and a robotics exhibit, where Lego robots were constructed and programmed to perform tasks like picking up and moving objects. There was also a panel discussion of selected industry representatives who spoke of their experiences getting started and getting ahead in IT. They also provided their insights and advice to the students in the audience. I thought this was a very honest and down to earth session.

There was also an excellent but ambitious session that brought together supply and demand in Tamanian ICT. The demand side of the panel consisted of industry sector representatives who articulated their ICT concerns and needs and the supply side consisted of ICT sector representatives who addressed the issues raised. The industry sectors represented on the demand side were Aged Care, Disability, Services, Agriculture, Aquaculture/Seafood, Building, Immigration and Employment. Needless to say, the issues raised were many and varied ranging from building information modelling to “paddock to plate” tracking of produce. The supply side panel was large with each given an opportunity to respond to demands, so the discussion was wide ranging.

The TASICT annual conference is an excellent event. It does a great job of showcasing what Tasmania offers in information and communication technology ranging from small business that are leading the world in app development to corporate IT. A distinguishing aspect of the conference is that all activity is conducted simultaneously in one large room including trade exhibits, presentations and panel session. It makes the whole event seem vibrant but I personally find it disturbing as many speakers during the main sessions are trying to talk over the background chatter of all the other activities. This also makes it hard to hear what they are saying and does not give them the best opportunity for presentation.

The best aspect of these conferences (this is my third) is the involvement of a broad section of the community and not just the ICT sector. Many similar conferences are insular by comparison where they have speakers from within their own industry and profession whereas the TASICT actively involve participants from other industry sectors in presentations and panels. Well done TasICT!