Australia will not become a leading digital economy by 2030 without a full-scale national strategy

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Australia will not become a leading digital economy by 2030 without a full-scale national strategy

Australia’s ability to innovate and support the transformation of digital technologies will determine our economic future.

Although we have previously held a leadership position, our failure to keep pace with global investment and growth in technology holds significant issues for the future of our economy. If we are to remain a nation of producers and not simply consumers, now is the time to act and support our innovative technology industry.

Through a national strategic plan, that includes support for the commercialisation of our AI, Quantum and Cyber Security sectors, an additional $400+ billion can be added to Australia’s economy that will employ over 1 million highly skilled paid workers in the industry. We have the potential to become one of the world’s leading economies driven by technology and now through recent UK US and Australia strategic partnership (AUKUS) on nuclear submarines, we are expected to lift our weight on technology with AI, quantum and cyber technologies core to the agreement.

Earlier this year, the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) welcomed the Morrison Government’s $1.2 billion investment in Australia’s digital future, however it is not enough to remain globally competitive. It is also important that the priority of the $1.2B allocation is towards commercialisation. Therefore, the AIIA will continue to advocate for greater investment into all areas of ICT across Australia’s priority industries.

With a more than 40-year history representing some of Australia's brightest technology companies across various industries, the AIIA sees first-hand the innovative technologies being created around our country.

A worrying trend we are witnessing more regularly is that many companies invest locally in R&D, however, when it goes through to commercialisation it ends up offshore. Simply stated, Governments are not providing enough support to grow our digital ecosystem locally, resulting in Australia becoming a laggard. Our small to medium business sector is developing amazing world-leading technologies supporting many other industries.

We especially see that Australia’s traditional strengths – the agricultural, manufacturing, and health industries - need to be supported by strong Government measures to stand up against their international counterparts. We must become a strong, independent and sustainable economy or suffer the long-term consequences of not keeping pace with the advancements made globally by economies that were once smaller than ours. When it comes to providing innovative technology to the world, our size or location does not matter. The proof is all around us with small countries becoming large economies.

The AIIA’s latest White Paper, Growing Globally Competitive Industries: Powered by Australia’s innovation technology provides almost 80 recommendations for the Government to invest in our core and strategic industries to remain competitive globally.

Why are we so passionate about this? Well here’s how we are falling behind:

  • Manufacturing: Australia is failing to harness the power of the fifth industrial revolution as clearly articulated in the Federal Government’s Modern Manufacturing Initiative (MMI), currently lacking representation in the six key competitive advantage areas, including recycling and clean energy.

  • Agriculture: Agriculture Technology (AgTech) has the potential to become Australia’s next $100 billion industry by 2030, yet there was low-level investment in the 2021- 2022 Federal Budget and almost completely missing from the Agriculture Strategy 2030.
  • Digital Government: 22% of Australians say they need to go to multiple sources to get the information they need from the Australian Government , currently there are 64 million pages of Content across gov.au across all levels. This is neither efficient or effective.
  • AI: Australia is well behind, compared to our global counterparts, on developing a $300+ billion AI industry by not investing in the commercialisation of its burgeoning start-up community. Our small investments have focussed on research and early-stage development. Commercialisation is the key, needing a national strategy and support.

  • Health: Australia is still ranked 26th out of 31 countries by the World Index of Healthcare Innovation. This is clearly visible in Australia’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

  • Cyber Security: Dramatic increase in cyber security attacks over the previous 12 months has sparked concern as high profile Australian organisations are being targeted for cost-related extortion.

We recognise that there is no one size fits all solution. We have the opportunity to position these key industries to grow and remain globally competitive. The AIIA remains committed to working with Government and industry to identify the best (and most efficient) mechanisms to grow a healthy digital ecosystem in Australia by 2030. This can only be achieved through a continued focus on building a resilient, flexible and future-focussed Australia.

As innovative digital technologies continue to expand their impact on all sectors of the Australian economy, we are dependent on the Government to continue to take leadership positions on technology for Australia through a strategic plan backed by support of those identified industries to evolve into their digital futures and continue to compete, if not lead, globally.

The AIIA strongly believes that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to reshape Australia’s global technology and innovation position and gain competitive control on a global scale to help rebuild and become a leading digital economy. Indeed, given the opportunities and consequences, it may well be a sliding doors moment for our economy.

To view the full set of recommendations by industry please visit: AIIA White Paper - Growing Globally Competitive Industries.

Ron Gauci is Chief Executive Officer, Australian Information Industry Association.

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