(2013), "News", International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management, Vol. 62 No. 4. https://doi.org/10.1108/ijppm.2013.07962daa.002Download as .RIS
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Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article Type: News From: International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management, Volume 62, Issue 4.
The Midwestern state that launched the political careers of Presidents Lincoln and Obama isn’t as well known for its leadership in electric grid technology. But because of its position at the forefront of the industry, Illinois has been awarded more than $1.5 million from the Small Business Administration as part of its regional cluster initiative to support startups working on electric grid innovations.
After the initial investment of $600,000 in both 2010 and 2011, the cluster received another $385,000 in 2012, with the potential for four years of additional funding beyond that.
The Illinois Smart Grid Regional Innovation Cluster has used the funds to provide support to small startups developing technology to help modernize and update Illinois’ electric grid, the network for delivering power from suppliers to businesses and consumers.
Illinois has become a national leader in technological developments to provide greater reliability and efficiency for what is being called the “smart grid.” In the past three years, nearly $4 billion has been invested in Illinois for energy efficiency, improvement of the grid infrastructure and development of green technologies.
The lion's share – $3.2 billion – came from the state's two largest utility companies, Commonwealth Edison Company and Ameren Corporation. The Illinois Energy Infrastructure Modernization Act, passed by the Illinois Legislature in 2011, made the investment possible by allowing utility companies to raise rates.
Columbia University researchers compared data about the productivity of agricultural field workers in California with information about environmental air-quality conditions. They found that variations in even low concentrations of ozone – which forms when car exhaust and industrial emissions are cooked by the summer sun – had a significant impact on productivity.
They estimate that a ten parts per billion decrease in ozone concentrations increases worker productivity by more than 5 percent. That productivity gain could save employers more than $1 billion in labor costs per year.
In countries heavily dependent on agriculture, the environmental effects on labor could have a large economic impact. It could be especially significant in countries like India, China and Mexico, where industrial growth and increased automobile use have led to rising levels of ozone pollution. In the USA, calls for tighter federal limits on ozone pollution have been rejected by the Obama Administration on the grounds they would pose too heavy a burden on businesses. The authors of the new study say that in fact, business would benefit from ozone reductions.
The study – published in The National Bureau of Economic Research – suggests that environmental protection measures could be seen as a way to promote economic growth and increase human capital, rather than as a tax burden on businesses and consumers.
Government buys tech
ICT spending in the entire government sector in Australia is predicted to grow by a compound annual rate of around 2.7 percent in the four years to 2015, although the Federal Government is expected to be cautious in its spending in the next 12 months as it tries to deliver a promised budget surplus.
In a report just released by analyst firm, IDC, ICT spending by the federal, state and local governments is forecast to reach $6,481.2 million in 2012, increasing to $7,053.9 million in 2015, and representing a compound annual growth rate of 2.7 percent.
IDC says, however, that the Federal Government is expected to be “cautious” in its spending on ICT due to the uncertainty of its ability to deliver a budget surplus of $1 billion in 2012/2013 from a budget deficit of $44 billion.
“However, the government is committed to spend on new ICT projects with 30% of the ICT budget allocated to drive expansionary spending as oppose to maintenance spending from the upgrades and renewals of existing products and services,” says David So, Australian Vertical Market analyst for IDC.
According to So, the Federal Government aims to generate significant cost efficiencies by deploying cloud-based infrastructure and a whole-of-government approach in its ICT procurement policy.
“The 35 vendors that were selected in the multi use list for the government's Data Centre-as-a-Service (DCaaS) are well positioned to assist the government in achieving the $1 billion cost savings from the procurement of cloud-based services.”
So says that IDC believes that the Australian government is beginning to “gain an appetite” – although slower than the private sector – for new generation technologies based on cloud, mobility, social and Big Data.
Where did mining productivity go?
Australia's resource companies have themselves to blame for the productivity problems that have blighted projects around the country in recent years, with adversarial contractor relationships and bloated layers of middle management contributing to budget blowouts and delays.
Research from the Center for Innovative Practice at Western Australia's Edith Cowan University has found that poor communication and cumbersome reporting structures at major Australian projects mean it could take weeks for vital issues to reach senior levels of management, adding unnecessary costs and delays.
Philippines aids farmers
The Quezon provincial government (Philippines) is set to launch its Farmer's Enhancement Productivity Program (FEPP) in the first part of 2013, the Capitol announced recently.
The FEPP will be implemented by the Provincial Agriculture Office to improve both the crop output and the socio-economic status of farmers.
To accomplish these goals, the FEPP's primary task is to provide farmers with seeds for growing, fertilizers and other materials needed to take care of their crops.
The provincial government will fund the purchase of farm inputs for farmers placed under the FEPP.
A survey by the Philippine Center for Mechanization and Postharvest Development (Philmech) of the Department of Agriculture (DA) showed that the level of farm mechanization in the Philippines has risen to one horsepower per hectare (hp/ha) from 0.52 hp/ha in the 1990s, making it possible to catch up with neighbors in Asia by 2016. Among the leaders in Asia are Japan with a mechanization level of 7 hp/ha, South Korea with 4.11 hp/ha, China with 4.10 hp/ha and Vietnam with 1.56 hp/ha.
The survey on the level of Philippine farm mechanization covered the period 2007-2012 and was based on the number of farm machines sold and deployed during the period. With government's ongoing efforts, it is expected that farm mechanization level will rise to 1.5 hp/ha or higher for rice farms by 2016.
The DA launched last year its mechanization program for rice farming as part of efforts to make the country self-sufficient in rice by 2013. This year, it has a budget of P2.6 billion for farm machinery subsidies. Last year, it released R1 billion; for 2013, it has allocated R2.4 billion. The program, a key component of Food Staples Sufficiency Program, aims to distribute 90,000 units of on-farm machinery and 7,000 units of postharvest machinery and equipment from 2011 to 2016, through a counterparting where the DA shoulders 85 percent of farm machine cost, while recipients pay 15 percent.
Singaporeans getting old
Singapore businesses said the 2-3 percent productivity growth target that the government is aiming for is too stretched.
In a position paper on population, the Singapore Business Federation (SBF) is calling for a more realistic target in line with the country's ageing workforce and lower manpower growth rate.
SBF is also calling for a one to two-year stay on any further tightening of foreign manpower in order to give businesses more time to adjust and raise productivity.
SBF chief operating officer Victor Tay said it is a rough road ahead as businesses face a more competitive business environment and a labor crunch.
For Singaporeans, he said, this could compromise service levels.
To raise local workforce participation, SBF is urging the government to increase incentives for employers to adopt flexible work arrangements, as well as tax breaks for companies when their female employees go on maternity leave.