While the world continues to change at a relentless rate due to digital technology, many countries struggle to keep the pace. A tool kit by 30-year-old, Oxford based Toby Phillips (BSc(Hons) ’12) is assisting developing countries to create digital economic strategies and helping them face an unchartered future.
In 2008 Toby found his way to Flinders University through its enhanced science program for high achievers, a unique and innovative program focused on research from the first year of study. He thought he would become an academic research scientist however, he says, ‘While I loved the science degree at Flinders, I found that academic lab-based research wasn’t for me, so I shifted gears into a different career.’
Toby is now the Head of Policy and Research, Digital Pathways at Oxford University in the UK, working on economic development and digital policy.
‘At first glance it seems miles apart, but actually the critical thinking skills, the reasoning and logic I learned in my science degree at Flinders have been invaluable. Not only in my current role but in all the jobs I have had.’
After graduating Toby moved to Canberra where he worked as a graduate policy officer in the Department of Human Services. During this time, he took up a placement working in the middle of Australia delivering Centrelink services to remote communities.
‘We were based out of Alice Springs but would spend Monday to Friday out in a 4WD or a single-prop plane taking government services to the most remote places in the country.’
The outback experience was a far cry from his current role at Oxford University where he has led a team to develop the Digital Economy Kit, a resource to help countries organise their thinking around digital economic strategy – which is now having an impact in countries around the world.
‘We have worked with the governments of Ethiopia, Mongolia, South Africa, Bangladesh, Malawi and Benin to put this into practice across their countries – something that gives me great satisfaction,’ says Toby. ‘I got to meet the UN Secretary General in Turkey last year when I was helping the one-year-old United Nations Technology Bank for Least Developed Countries think through their digital strategy.’
Toby is also part of the team leading the Oxford COVID-19 Government Response Tracker – a research database of government policies during the pandemic that has gained worldwide interest.
‘The project involves coordinating over a hundred contributors from around the world. Our work has been used by governments, researchers, international agencies such as the WHO, World Bank, UN and IMF.’
Toby says his degree and experience at Flinders has influenced him in a range of ways he could never predict and it has played an important part in his transition to adulthood.
‘I moved out of home while I was at Flinders. I learned critical thinking I was at Flinders. I met my now-fiancé while I was at Flinders. I developed a professional-level work ethic while I was at Flinders.’
Flinders graduates have global reach and international impact, read more