Australia gets AU$1.2bn pre-budget digital boost
The Australian government has unveiled a wide-ranging, AU$1.2 billion scheme to boost the country's digital future.
Comprising eight key parts, the Digital Economy Strategy was announced ahead of the 11 May Federal budget and covered everything from gaming to digitalisation and e-health.
Of the total budgeted, there will be more than $100 million made available to support digital skills, investments in the cyber workforce, and scholarships for emerging technology graduates.
Investment incentives and "data in the economy" were two major points of interest. Here a Digital Games Tax Offset of 30% will be introduced to support Australia taking a greater share of the $250 billion global game development market, and changes to the way Australian businesses can claim depreciation of intangible assets like intellectual property and in-house software.
On the value of data to the future economy, the government allocated $111.3 million to accelerate the rollout of the Consumer Data Right in banking, energy and telecommunications.
The initiative will also fund a National Artificial Intelligence Centre. In fact, AI will benefit from initiatives valued at $124.1 million; the digital government service myGov will receive a $200 million funding boost.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said: “Our Digital Economy Strategy will allow Australian businesses to capitalise on the opportunities that digital technologies are creating. Greater digital adoption will improve our competitiveness and lift our productivity – driving job creation and higher wages.”
Prime minister Scott Morrison highlighted how the initiative would support the digitalisation of SMEs across Australia; SMEs are vital to the economy and contribute 33% of GDP. Under the scheme, they will be supported to build digital capacity through a $12.7 million expansion of the Digital Solutions - Australian Small Business Advisory Service, and $15.3 million to drive business uptake of e-Invoicing.
Morrison said: “Every business in Australia is now a digital business. The tradesman or woman who seeks work through AirTasker. The landscaper who finds most of their new business through search engine placement and social media. The farmer who keeps track of their herd with electronic tags or drones. The local Thai restaurant that sells through UberEats, MenuLog, Deliveroo, or any one of half a dozen different food apps. The gym where members book their classes through an app,” the Prime Minister said.
“This transformation is not merely a national one that needs to happen – it’s a global one that is happening.
“We must keep our foot on the digital accelerator to secure our economic recovery from Covid-19," Morrison continued.
Leading by example
Commenting on the developments in Canberra, the CEO of Macquarie Telecom Group – a major digital service provider for the public sector – urged the government to "lead by example as the largest buyer of these services".
He said: "Macquarie Telecom Group welcomes the Government’s commitment and multi-layered investment into Australia’s digital economy – essentially now the entire economy – through its Digital Economy Strategy, and we congratulate the various Cabinet Ministers who contributed to its creation.
"In particular, we applaud its stated position in recognising the ‘value of data in the economy and setting the standards for the next generation of data management’. This supports Australia’s digital sovereignty, a cornerstone of our economic recovery and cyber security posture, which go hand in hand," Tudehope continued.
He went on to praise other elements of the initiative, highlighting the importance of cyber skills, which he said, "cannot be offshored due to the accelerating risk of nation state-based attacks".
Tudehope continued: "As the full details of the Strategy are revealed and developed, it’s important that they address first and foremost how to prioritise and enhance companies of all sizes within the local sovereign technology ecosystem, including people, data, cloud services and data centres. This will drive Australia forward and create the vibrant digital economy the Strategy aims to achieve. Government should also lead by example and prioritise the local technology ecosystem when making its purchasing decisions, as collectively government is the largest buyer of technology services in the Australian economy."