mobile service provider Retriever Communications' expansion into the
emerging European mobile data market should boost local IT
companies' current fragile self-esteem.
One of a number of Australian companies blazing a trail abroad,
the startup's decision to partner with a French-based services
giant, Groupe Bull, speaks volumes not only about France's role in
the new economy, but also about what Australian companies are
capable of doing.
According to Retriever Communications founder and CEO Mary
Brittain-White, the Retriever service addresses the commercial need
for field automation with a service solution that is
technology-flexible and risk-free. "Since founding the company in
late 1996, our sole mission has been the development of a mobile
application service to be delivered on handheld and laptop computers
over public mobile telecommunications," she explains.
"A venture capital funded company, we went live with C&W
Optus as an Optus-branded service in February this year. The
service combines handheld computer technology with the public mobile
telecommunications network, and enabes field workers to dynamically
access, retrieve and send data to and from an office."
Brittain-White claims the service increases the efficiency of an
organisation's field force through reduced back-to-base visits and
saves time and money in the area of office field support by
eliminating paperwork and double data entry. Companies using the
service can reduce their field support administration costs by 40
per cent a year, she says.
The decision to partner with a European company above any
potential partners in either the US or Asia, may seem surprising,
but, according to Charles O'Hanlon, Austrade Europe's executive
general manager, Europe is a market with major IT capacity.
Australians, he believes, often overlook what is a sophisticated
and increasingly deregulated IT market, because of incorrect or
"But Europe is a highly internationalised, highly developed
trading region, and a global financial centre, with a huge appetite
for IT – and the ability to pay. It is the home of key technologies
and of global platforms for rollout wireless applications. Both
businesses and consumers are rapidly wiring up."
When it comes to mobile phones, O'Hanlon believes the European
market can already be considered mature. It's estimated that by 2004
there will be more than 240 million business digital mobile users,
with Western Europe expected to represent 40 per cent of the
worldwide business data market. As many as 30 per cent of these are
field workers in the transport, maintenance, health and sales
automation markets, Retriever Communications' target market.
Australian voice and data networking company Jtec (a subsidiary
of ASX-listed Techniche) is already proving highly successful in the
European market, according to Brian Davis, who was recently
appointed executive chairman and CEO to spearhead the company's
additional international expansion.
"Jtec is in an ideal position to succeed internationally," says
Davis, who will be expanding its mainly European export markets,
with particular emphasis on the US and Asia, where the company has
According to Peter Hatcher, VP, marketing and alliances, of
Australian IT company Sienna Technologies, contrary to some
perceptions in the marketplace, the local IT industry is in fact
burgeoning. "It appears that some of the local media are making a
connection between Australia's flagging dollar and comments that our
'old' economy structures are allowing us to fall behind other
IT/technology leaders, like the US," says Hatcher. "But there are
some extremely innovative local software developers that are winning
business as a result of leading-edge technology."
Hatcher says Sienna representatives, for one, are "frantically
travelling throughout Asia, addressing e-business solutions markets"
with the company's Gateware platform. These are "market
opportunities that are not being addressed by other major software
developers or vendors", he says.
Queensland software and services company Technology
One is another local company that's pouring cold water on
negative sentiment towards the local IT sector. It's replicating its
Australian success abroad and has recently been awarded prestigious
Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) status by the Malaysian government.
"The MSC status, one of the first to be won by an Australian IT
company, comes just one month after we launched our global expansion
program with the opening of our first overseas office in Kuala
Lumpur," says Technology One managing director Adrian Di Marco.
"Gaining MSC status – Malaysia's vision to create the Silicon Valley
of Asia – is a major achievement as it catapults us into an elite
class of foreign companies, providing instant credibility and
opening doors within the government and corporate sectors."
Australia's representative for the Multimedia Super Corridor,
Paul Phillips, says that of the 380 foreign IT companies awarded
this status, six are Australian. "Technology One is part of the
vanguard and is demonstrating to other Australian IT companies how
to go about doing business in Malaysia and the Asian region."