Australia lacks coordinated digital strategy, report states

By Tom Ravlic

Thursday September 2, 2021

Australia is unlikely to be a stellar digital economy by 2030 if our governments continue to have no digitisation strategy, policy or leadership, says the AIIA.
Australia is unlikely to be a stellar digital economy by 2030 if our governments continue to have no digitisation strategy, policy or leadership, says the AIIA. (eunikas/Adobe)

Australia is unlikely to be a stellar digital economy by 2030 if governments across the country continue to have no strategy, policy or leadership, according to a critical report released this week by the Australian Information Industry Association.

The AIIA, which advocates on behalf of professionals across information industries, said that Australian industries need more rapid digitisation otherwise the country faces the prospect of being a consumer of certain types of goods and services rather than a producer.

Ron Gauci, the AIIA’s chief executive officer, said government support was required for innovative technologies so the country’s economic wellbeing does not suffer in the future.

“The traditional strengths of Australia — our agricultural, manufacturing, and health — need to be supported by strong government measures to stand up against international counterparts,” Gauci said.

“We can become a strong economy or suffer the longer term consequences of not keeping pace with the advancements being made globally by economies that were once smaller than ours.”

The report titled Growing Globally Competitive Industries calls for the Federal Government to accelerate the digitisation of Australia by creating specific industries as well as providing incentives for individuals and companies to adopt digitisation more quickly.

It notes that the focus for the government should be to ensure that people move from a research and development focus to commercialisation.

“It is important to note that an innovation technology driven agenda that places Australia as a global leader across our priority industries is only reliant on our ability to invent and commercialise,” the report says.

“It is not dependent on our size or our location. This mindset can change the way we and others view us.”

A review on commercialisation of digital technologies is recommended in the report with the AIIA stating the objective should be to create a framework for ‘support and recommending how existing gaps can be addressed’.

“This review must necessarily consult with key stakeholders including state governments, industry associations, research institutions and higher education and should cover tax incentives, grants and other government programs that currently support industry-based innovation,” the report states.

The AIIA points to the government as a key to changing the mindset related to digitisation by suggesting the government conduct an exercise of digital skill mapping throughout the public service.

It also asks for the government to consider ensuring that government agencies appoint what the AIIA calls Artificial Intelligence or AI champions to ensure that there are individuals prepared to push for digitisation initiatives with business agency senior management.

There are also suggestions that governments should allocate more resources to citizen journey management technologies, implement cloud first policies as a part of technological change, and also appoint a minister for what the AIIA calls citizen centric delivery for those jurisdictions that do not have a minister with that responsibility.

The report makes recommendations for various industry sectors that the AIIA believes will speed up digitisation.

Agriculture is an example of what the AIIA says is required to improve digitisation with a recommendation for the recognition of ‘AgTech’, technology designed to improve the way people and companies work in agriculture, as a separate industry.

AgTech would need some kind of an oversight body and a governance framework, according to the AIIA, that would enable the coordination of digitisation initiatives across departments. This would also include the establishment of a standalone AgTech division within the Department of Agriculture. 

There is also a proposal for the federal government to create a robotics commercialisation and acceleration fund that would cater for all industries but for that fund to have an allocation that is dedicated to AgTech.

The AIIA also wants the Federal Government to have a $10 million funding stream set aside for AgTech within the Department of Industry’s entrepreneurship program to boost innovation in that sector.


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