Backing innovation with cloud infrastructure and training

Steven Worrall

Australia has long been a nation of innovators and early adopters. We’re quick to create or embrace new approaches that can help us to compete in business, improve social services or become more resilient in the face of threats like droughts, bushfires or cybercrime.

This ability to innovate relies on us having access to the right equipment and skills. And today, one of the most essential pieces of equipment is secure, hyperscale cloud and artificial intelligence computing infrastructure – plus the people to make the most of it.

Access to cloud computing resources has been a key ingredient in many of Australia’s celebrated success stories of the past decade.

Microsoft Australia and New Zealand managing director Steven Worrall

Companies like Atlassian, Canva and WiseTech have been able to grow rapidly and go global from Australia using the robust, standards-based international computing platforms provided by Microsoft, Amazon Web Services and others. Many non-tech businesses have done the same and all sorts of individuals, companies and government agencies have been able to use cloud-based services to become more efficient, productive and secure.

Since 1983, Microsoft has been providing the software, services and digital infrastructure that much of Australia relies on every day. Today, our presence includes a network of over 5,000 local partners that collectively employ more than 200,000 people. Having built their operations around our technology and platforms, these small- and medium-sized businesses have ushered in waves of innovation and growth, both in Australia and abroad.

Looking ahead, Australian innovators will want to leverage the cloud and AI at scale. We’re already seeing huge demand for these as organisations explore their potential to increase competitiveness and create new products and services. We need to meet this demand to ensure Australian companies have the tools they need to turn their ideas into real offerings.

With all this in mind, I’m delighted to say that Microsoft will be making its largest-ever single investment in Australia’s digital infrastructure, skills and security in its 40 years in the country.

We will invest $5 billion over the next two years to substantially expand our cloud computing and AI infrastructure in Australia. This will increase our number of local data centre sites from 20 to 29 and our total computing capacity by around 250 per cent.

Microsoft’s latest investments will be accompanied by two major initiatives that will help to underpin Australia’s innovation potential, economic strength and resilience.

We will be expanding Microsoft’s global skills programs to help a further 300,000 Australians access cloud computing and AI training. One example of this is the work we do with the Institute of Applied Technology – Digital in NSW, which has had more than 31,000 enrolments since being officially launched in February this year.

We are also working towards launching the first Microsoft Data Centre Academy and associated training lab in early 2024 with TAFE NSW. These will help build a pipeline of skilled workers to operate data centres across the country. There will be additional support to help women and First Nations people access this training. These training initiatives will add to the technology sector’s efforts to help reach the government’s goal of filling 1.2 million tech-related jobs by 2030.

In addition, Microsoft will collaborate with the Australian Signals Directorate on an initiative called the Microsoft-Australian Signals Directorate Cyber Shield (MACS). Microsoft will work with ASD to build fit-for-purpose, next-generation cybersecurity solutions. MACS will include the evolution of national threat intelligence sharing capabilities, with a focus on detecting, analysing and defending against sophisticated nation-state cyber threats.

These announcements were made by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Microsoft’s Vice Chair and President Brad Smith in Washington DC earlier today. This highlights their significance and the importance of Australia’s wider partnership with the United States.

Taken together, these digital infrastructure, skills development and cybersecurity initiatives will empower organisations to innovate and address some of Australia’s biggest challenges. They will provide the means to reverse declining labour productivity growth, for example, which is critical to maintaining our economic expansion, real wages and standards of living.

According to the Treasury, Australia’s productivity growth was the slowest it’s been in 60 years in the decade to 2020. It notes that this is consistent with the experience of many other advanced economies and said that addressing the problem will require “investing in Australians’ skills, improving business dynamism, boosting digital adoption, and realising the opportunities of the net zero transformation and growth of the care economy”.

These measures will all be supported by increasing the nation’s digital infrastructure and skills. Research from Microsoft and the Tech Council of Australia shows that generative AI alone could contribute $115 billion a year to our economy by 2030 if adopted quickly.

Climate change and disaster management are other important issues. Cloud computing and AI provide the tools to help us better understand these complex challenges and find new approaches. Microsoft is already working with innovative Australian groups, using the cloud and AI to better monitor natural disasters and protect the sea floor, for example.

Finally, a strong and secure cloud and AI infrastructure will help more Australian enterprises succeed locally and globally. Combined with having the right skills and focusing on principles such as inclusion and the ethical implementation of technology, these services are quickly becoming the cornerstones of our modern, innovative and secure digital economy.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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