Victoria's tech scene is constantly abuzz with private collaborations and public events that are helping to drive an increasingly dynamic and innovative tech startup culture. It's not surprising, then, that organisers of the inaugural Digital Innovation Festival (DIF), which ran from August 26 to September 9, were able to put together a program offering over 50 events from lectures and seminars to rockstar headliners like Steve Wozniak.
Digital Innovation Festival (#Dif) 2016
In city laneways, on University campuses and in community co-working spaces, experts talked about future technologies and creative disruption, design excellence and pushing the boundaries of knowledge. Whether big or small, each event on the DIF calendar brought Melbourne's innovators and entrepreneurs closer together, strengthening Victoria's thriving innovation ecosystem by nurturing opportunities for collaboration – and 'out of the box' conversation.
George Hedon knows all about the power of collaboration and the value of thinking out of the box; as the founder of Pause Fest, one of Victoria's most forward-thinking and dynamic tech industry festivals, he has played a direct part in helping to foster the state's vibrant tech culture.
He says events like the Digital Innovation Festival and Pause Fest are "about creating sustained momentum" and giving people the opportunity to mix, discuss ideas, and find investment opportunities. He also says they're attracting more national and international tech players to Melbourne than ever before, creating new and exciting opportunities for the industry.
For Hedon, these events are more than just social gatherings for tech-heads; they are "the arteries" of Victoria's tech ecosystem, where fresh ideas and new perspectives "accelerate people's thinking in new and different ways."
The "Victorian Difference"
The problem-solving ethos shared by Melbourne's innovators and entrepreneurs was on display at the DIF festival, as evident in general conversation as it was during deal brokering discussions. Many of these discussions were focussed on spotting gaps in the industry ecosystem and kick-starting the discussions necessary for finding lasting solutions — and creating better outcomes for society in the process.
"Victoria is an absolute hub for startups and social enterprises," says Tania de Jong, founder of Creativity Australia and Creative Universe and DIF presenter. "We aren't Silicon Valley yet, but we are going along that pathway and we need to do it with our own socially conscious difference."
Tech Driven Growth for All
Digi-tech is set to become one of the fastest growing industries in Victoria, worth a forecasted $50.8 billion in 2020, and establishing the state as the number one tech destination in the Asia-Pacific.
"A lot of people will have huge gains," de Jong says, "but there are also going to be a lot of people left behind."
Her eye for the social aspect was echoed in conversations festival-wide, demonstrating an enormous potential for collaboration and digi-tech solutions to enhance lives, rather than increase divides.
"Melbourne's innovators and entrepreneurs have a strong social conscience, and endless talent. Festivals like this add to our chance to make sure that this [digital revolution] enriches every Victorian's life," says Tania. "Let's not leave anyone behind."