Industry Minister Karen Andrews has confirmed that the federal government’s Digital Economy Strategy is on track for release before the end of the year.
The publication of the strategy document will come more than a year after it was commissioned in September last year by then industry minister Arthur Sinodinos.
The strategy was then handed to Michaelia Cash when she took the industry portfolio, before being passed to Ms Andrews, who was promoted to Minister for Industry, Science and Technology as part of Scott Morrison’s Cabinet reshuffle in August.
When released, the strategy will provide case studies of how the digital economy can benefit different industries, such as agriculture, education and health.
“The Strategy will provide an overarching guide to the formulation, development and implementation of policy for the digital economy,” a spokesperson for Ms Andrews told InnovationAus.com.
“It will ensure a coordinated approach to seizing the opportunities and managing the challenges that we face in an increasingly digital world.”
The Opposition has previously taken government to task for the prolonged release of the initiative saying it was evidence that the government has failed to deliver on its signature innovation agenda.
As the new Industry Minister, Ms Andrews’ says she is pressing to get portfolio’s Women’s Advisory Roundtable to meet again. She’s optimistic that they will meet before the end of the year. “It’s just a case of finalising the date.”
“[The women’s advisory panel] was one of the first items I was briefed about when I came [into the role as minister], because I have worked in this portfolio area before and a lot of people were aware where my background fitted into this,” Ms Andrews said.
The Women’s Advisory Roundtable was first unveiled in early 2017 by Senator Sinodinos to guide the federal government on policy related gender diversity and equality issues in the science and innovation sectors. Since then, it has met only once, in March 2018 – more than a year after it was established and with Senator Cash having taken over as minister.
The first meeting, chaired by Senator Cash, focused on issues women face in the private sector – with a focus on startups – and on research. It discussed barriers to gender equity in innovation and the impact of the National Innovation and Science Agenda (NISA) initiatives. It also looked at the implementation status and future directions of the government’s Women’s Workforce Participation Strategy.
The Digital Economy Strategy and Women’s Advisory Roundtable are only just two of hundreds of government initiatives that fall within the responsibilities of the Industry portfolio. Others include the Cooperative Research Centres grant program, Entrepreneurs’ Programme, Business Research and Innovation Initiative, Accelerating Commercialisation grants, Incubator Support initiative, and Global Innovation Linkages program.
So how does the government maintain visibility of the success of these programs when there are so many?
According to Ms Andrews, it was a matter she recognised when she first started the role in August.
“I actually have had discussions with the Department. Obviously having only been there for the last couple months, it’s in the early stages,” she said.
“But I want to make sure that our decisions are based on evidence, and that means programs have to be evaluated. We need to know what worked and what hasn’t worked, so that’s going to be a key part of my role going forward.”