Malcolm Turnbull’s Holy Grail of digital transformation for the public sector may have been relegated to the back of the Scott Morrison policy pack.
But it’s all systems go at the Department of Jobs and Small Business where an SMB online makeover can be achieved through a $20,000 government grant.
With an election just around the corner, Minister for Small and Family Business, Skills and Vocational Education, Senator Michaelia Cash, on Tuesday moved swiftly to beat the Christmas rush of funding promises, unwrapping the gift new technology for those who get in early.
Dubbed the “Small Business Digital Champions Project” (nothing as boring as a policy please) Cash said that “100 small businesses from diverse sectors across Australia will be chosen to receive a digital transformation valued at up to $20,000.
This will include the hardware, software and digital skills training required for them to thrive in their particular field.”
The government has also carefully chosen entrepreneurs with a proven mix of marketing pizzazz and value market savvy, naming Dodo internet founder Larry Kestelman as the headline rainmaker-in-chief to bring out the best aspiring business leaders of the future.
There are priceless marketing opportunities too, with “chosen” SMBs get access to free publicity in what appears to be a mash-up between reality TV and public policy.
“Fifteen of these businesses will be selected to become a ‘Digital Champion’ – to undergo their transformation in the public spotlight, with the mentoring assistance of high profile Australian entrepreneurs,” Cash said.
Aside from the guru of all things Dodo, other celebrity business owners donating their expertise include Dr Sam Prince, founder of Mexican style chain restaurant Zambrero and weight loss matriarch and founder of the online 12WBT Program (that’s 12 week body transformation) Michelle Bridges.
According to Cash’s ministerial statement “Kestelman said he was excited to partner with the Coalition on the initiative.”
"Small business in Australia has so much potential to grow and change lives through adopting technology. We have nurtured many small businesses including Saisei and ECAL through my own start-up incubator Oxygen Ventures to use digital to grow revenue," Kestleman said.
"Meanwhile leveraging upon the resources and expertise of our digital marketing agency Frankly Marketing to transform the National Basketball League through using online entertainment and e-commerce platforms.”
Whatever that means.
Still, in this age of Trump, too much reality is never enough and the Minister for Jobs revealed that Yellow Brick Road founder and occasional celebrity and alleged ScoMo confidante Mark Bouris also donated his expertise to the ambitious project.
Cash said she “acknowledged the important role the findings of Mark Bouris AM’s Small Business Digital Taskforce Report played in informing the initiative.”
The Jobs Minister has also prevailed upon global platform giants to help SMBs get to the pointy end of the plane. Cash said a “Digital Champions’ business upgrade will be boosted by expertise and resources contributed by a range of corporate partners, including Facebook and Google.”
Some of the expertise could logically include how to avoid the encumbrance regulatory red tape, especially from the likes of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission that this week suggested Google and Facebook's market power should be curbed.
And while the ACCC’s final report on platform power won’t be out until mid-next year, Cash is moving quickly to make sure digital champions can become business winners, saying the project will formally commence in early 2019.
That timing puts it neatly before the now March Budget and a likely May federal election.
But who’s counting the days?