Australia needs a national digital economy strategy

By Dylan Bushell-Embling
Thursday, 09 September, 2021

Australia needs a national digital economy strategy

The Australian Information Industry Association has warned that Australia will not be able to achieve its goal of becoming a leading digital economy by 2030 without a full-scale national strategy.

The industry body has published a new white paper outlining 80 detailed recommendations for government to accelerate the digitalisation of Australian industry. Failing to do so will result in Australia failing to meet the Prime Minister’s 2030 digital economy targets, the AIIA said.

According to the white paper, Australia is falling behind in terms of its core and strategic industries and must invest significantly to stay competitive. In health care, the World Index of Healthcare Innovation still ranks Australia as 26th out of 31 countries. Meanwhile in manufacturing, Australia is failing to harness the power of the fifth industrial revolution.

Although agricultural technology (AgTech) is set to become Australia’s next $100 billion industry by 2030, the government is making only low investments in this area. The white paper recommends that AgTech be recognised as a standalone industry which is both supportive and complementary to agriculture, with the federal Department of Agriculture establishing a standalone AgTech branch.

The federal government should also establish a dedicated AgTech funding stream of $10 million within the Department of Industry’s ‘Entrepreneurs’ Programme’, the white paper adds.

Australia is also well behind globally in the development of an AI industry by not investing in commercialisation of its burgeoning startup community, missing out on a market that is worth an estimated $300 billion worldwide.

The report recommends that the government take the lead in the development of the industry by establishing a Government AI Ethics Committee staffed with both internal and external members.

Reforms have also been recommended across digital government, with 22% of Australians still stating that they need to go to more than one source to get the information they need from the Australian Government.

“Australia’s ability to innovate and support innovation of digital technologies will determine our economic future. If we are to remain a nation of producers and not simply consumers, now is the time to act and support our innovative technologies,” AIIA CEO Ron Gauci said.

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

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