I just got back from a one-week stay in Melbourne, a multifaceted city that has something for everyone.
When I arrived there on March 12, the city was in the midst of the Moomba Festival, reputedly Australia’s largest free community festival, which takes place during the Labor Day weekend. Citizens and tourists gathered along the banks of Melbourne’s Yarra River to witness various events, including the Birdman Rally, during which contestants aim to fly across the river by leaping off a four-meter platform with wings attached to their costumes; and the Moomba Parade, a lively and colorful procession that features community designed floats accompanied by performance troupes, professional and amateur dance groups, and participants from various schools. On the night of Labor Day (March 13) itself, I walked along the Southbank of Yarra River after having sirloin steak and Asahi beer at Ludlow Bar and Dining Room, enjoyed the music played by street musicians (which included a young singer/guitarist who looked Filipino), and watched the fireworks, together with the large crowd.
There was a variety of food choices within the Central Business District (CBD), including Chinese, Indian, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Thai and Vietnamese cuisine. Of course, there was McDonald’s and its rebranded stores dubbed Macca’s, which is the Australian nickname for the restaurant chain. According to a news item published in The Telegraph, 50 percent of Australians use the said nickname. Makes me wonder why we, Filipinos, haven’t rebranded our McDonald’s stores as ‘McDo’?
The main reason I was in Melbourne, though, was that I was part of a group of academics from Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines, who received funding to attend a research workshop in Victoria University.
Dubbed “Asean academic partnerships for small business and ICT knowledge transfer”, this workshop was supported by the Australian government through the Australia-Asean Council (AAC) of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. We attended several lectures delivered by Australian researchers, who talked about the state of small business and ICT research in Australia. We were also fortunate to listen to the stories of local entrepreneurs who talked about their experiences in utilizing ICT, including social media, in their business operations.
What I got from the stories of the Australian business owners is that ICT is just like any other technology that had been with us since man discovered fire or invented the wheel. It is a tool that can be used for productive or counterproductive purposes. To put it simply, ICT does not make a business successful; it is how management utilizes technology to support its goals and strategies that matter. This is actually not a fresh insight.
What is relatively new is the way that business owners and managers have expanded their idea of what business is for. Whereas the traditional notion of business is that it must maximize profit, there is an increasing number of individuals that have set up their businesses to fulfill multiple goals. These goals include the following: (a) preserving the family’s heritage, as exemplified by the Dennis family of Tarndie, a heritage sheep farm; (b) pursuing a certain lifestyle, as in the cases of Rachel Bernardo of West Gems Tour, and Melissa Meek-Jacobs of Captain’s Retreat; and (c) protecting the environment, as in the cases of Selvi Kannan of Holy Bell Farm, and Alexis Valenza of Valenza Engineering.
For some of these businesses, the use of ICT has helped them cut cost, increase efficiency, and reach a bigger market, things that they must be able to do if they want to keep their businesses viable in support of their non-financial objectives. Some of them, however, utilized technology just because the others have already adopted it (bandwagon effect) but later realized that it does not really serve their purpose. With the proliferation of ICT, there is risk that business owners and managers might focus on the technical aspects without giving equal regard to the human aspects of the organization.
For me, technology must serve the human and social goals of the business, not the other way around. Perhaps we should look at ICT as a tool that can be used not only to promote the goals of a business but also to enrich the lives of those who are involved in it.
Raymund B. Habaradas is an associate professor at the Management and Organization Department of the Ramon V. Del Rosario College of Business of De La Salle University, where he teaches Management of Organizations and Management Research. He does research on SME development, corporate social initiatives and social enterprises. He welcomes comments at email@example.com. The views expressed above are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official position of DLSU, its faculty and its administrators.