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The biggest questions need the boldest answers. That’s why we’re using our global scale, technology expertise and collaborative spirit to move towards a better today and a brighter tomorrow together.

Vikram Singh, Country Head, TCS ANZ explores the latest government investments in digital infrastructure and technology.

Posted: August 2021

Q: What are the biggest challenges facing the technology sector across Australia?

Expanding production, increasing productivity, and creating jobs within the technology sector are currently some of the biggest issues facing the industry. Additionally, as Australia’s international borders remain closed, the technology sector has been grappling with a lack of local, skilled talent with the industry traditionally supplementing this issue through migration.

This talent gap is of great concern to the sector, both for the local economy and the future of industry sustainability. A recent RMIT and Deloitte Access Economics report found that without addressing the digital skills gap, Australia will miss out on an estimated AUD 10 billion worth of growth in the technology, media and communications industries alone by 2025. This limitation also poses a risk for the national digital transformation, eagerly anticipated across all industries.

Q: What are some of the key ways that these challenges are being addressed?

The urgent need for 156,000 new technology workers to limit the shortfall has been addressed in part through the addition of technology roles within the Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List. This includes software and application programmers, ICT security specialists, developer programmers and software engineers.

Additionally, the federal government, announced in May, unveiled several key initiatives that will foster local talent:

  • AUD 10.7 million to be shared by the Digital Skills Cadetship Trial to deliver work-based learning opportunities for in-demand digital jobs
  • AUD 22.6 million for the Next Generation Emerging Technology Graduates Program that will provide more than 200 scholarships in emerging technologies
  • AUD 43.8 million for expanding its Cyber Security Skills Partnership Innovation Fund to fund additional innovative projects to quickly improve the quality and quantity of cybersecurity professionals in Australia

Beyond government support and initiatives, businesses and industry bodies must also build a strong pipeline of talent. This can be done through early education STEM programs for primary and high school students, demonstrating the breadth of jobs available in the industry and technical reskilling and upskilling programs for the current workforce to foster talent and development.

The required pipeline of talent aligns with the growing trend of digital infrastructure and transformation that has been a key priority for many businesses and sectors throughout the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The uptake of digital solutions is set to receive significant investment at both federal and state government levels.

The federal government has recently announced a commitment of AUD 1.2 billion over the next six years to support the Digital Economy Strategy, which will drive the digital transformation of the healthcare sector, the first-stage plan to make Australia "a leading digital economy and society by 2030". This investment includes half a billion dollars into myGov and the My Health Record system, and AUD 54 million into a national artificial intelligence centre.

The NSW government has also announced its intention to further strengthen this commitment with AUD 500 million of funding earmarked for digital health projects across the region. Programs such as the Single Digital Patient Record, Real Time Prescription Monitoring and the NSW Telestroke Service have been earmarked as priorities by the state’s record investment into health initiatives.

Q: There is currently a strong appetite and interest in Artificial Intelligence (AI). How do you think Australia’s capabilities in this sector measure up in the industry, and what can be done to drive AI locally?

Artificial intelligence is a critical component of business growth and innovation. In Australia, businesses are keen to incorporate AI into their processes and to understand how they can utilise this technology for a digital future.

The government plans to build Australia’s AI capability, to grow the economy, support industry competitiveness, create jobs, and improve lives. Investment of AUD 53.8 million into a new National Artificial Intelligence Centre will drive business adoption of AI technologies by coordinating Australia’s AI expertise and capabilities. The centre is set to be a foundation for collaboration on AI technology and applications, bolstered by four Digital Capability Centres that will likely specialise in specific applications for AI, such as robotics or AI-assisted manufacturing. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO)'s Data61 further reports that the benefits of AI could be worth up to AUD 22 trillion to the global economy by 2030.

Q: Which are the key areas in which you’d like to see the greatest investment and industry support across the tech sector in Australia?

For Australia to match the tech industry's ambition and to compete on a global scale, significant funding is still required across the sector. Key priorities should include greater investment in AI and machine learning (ML), which will help in creating significant opportunities for government, business and consumers.

Additionally, investment into digital uptake across the economy will be critical in delivering new capabilities and supporting new ways of working. Ensuring that digitisation is broadly adopted across industries, sectors and SMEs as well as large enterprises, driven by investment and incentives, will support Australia’s profitability and competitiveness on a global scale.

Finally, to support and nurture local growth, greater investment across the innovation ecosystem, accelerating the growth of tech start-ups, as well as the development and implementation of clear industry guidelines are critical.