Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has used her visit to San Francisco for the annual bilateral foreign and defence talks known as AUSMIN to underscore the clear message from new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull: that in his Cabinet, technology – and not coal – is the new black.
Ms Bishop, already famous for her relentless tweeting and use of emojis to show her own technology savvy, held a furious round of technology-related meetings, including a roundtable for Australian tech entrepreneurs, amid visits to some of Silicon Valley’s biggest companies – Google Microsoft, HP and Twitter.
She also visited the city’s technology-centric Stanford University, as well as earth imaging and miniature satellite company Planet Labs.
“One of the foreign ministers most significant foreign policy projects in the field of international aid and development is the innovationXchange, launched in March this year, “ a spokesperson for Ms Bishop told InnovationAus.com.
“All the technology companies visited are relevant to the work of DFAT and the innovationXchange.”
The innovationXchange is aimed at transforming the way Australia delivers aid and development assistance, and to create a culture within the Australian aid program “that seeks alternative and effective ways of reducing poverty and increasing living standards in our region.”
Ms Bishop said in her speech to The Asia Foundation in San Francisco – that took technology and innovation as its centrepiece – that the innovationXchange will identify, trial and, where successful, scale up innovative approaches to designing and delivering our aid program.
“Australia already has a heavy focus on innovation in our aid and development program. Traditional methods of aid delivery are no longer sufficient to address development challenges,” Ms Bishop said.
“While there have been decades of growth in Asia, poverty remains a serious challenge for many countries, and pockets of instability and conflict persist throughout our region.
“Development challenges, particularly in fragile and conflict-affected countries, can be highly complex and seemingly intractable. As The Asia Foundation understands well, innovation and new partnerships will be crucial for finding solutions to entrenched development problems.”
Ms Bishop was joined by Australia’s US Ambassador Kim Beazely at Australian-founded group Nitro, which makes online collaborative software used by “more than 500,000 businesses … including over 50 per cent of the Fortune 500.”
At Nitro she led a roundtable of Australian technology hopefuls included executives from Kaggle, Dessert Labs, Cloudpeeps and Proxy.
Ms Bishop’s office said the Silicon Valley visit had been in the works for sometime as part of her trip to the US for AUSMIN.
Still, with the exception of the inclusion of Nitro and Planet Labs, the agenda was remarkably similar to one hurriedly organised for former Prime Minister Tony Abbott en route to the United Nations General Assembly at the end of September.
That was a trip Mr Abbott never took, after being replaced by Mr Turnbull just two weeks ahead of the annual UN summit in New York.
But unlike Abbott’s planned San Francisco stop off, Bishop’s main aim actually appears to have been to engage with the tech sector.
The rumour mill has it that the former PM was more intent on making sure he had a photograph taken with former Rugby League star and San Fransciso 49ers player Jarryd Hayne.
*Photo Credit: Getty