The Digital Transformation Agency and national privacy watchdog have both been given funding boosts, while more cash has also been injected into the federal government’s digital economy strategy as part of the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg revealed the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) update on Thursday afternoon.
The Coalition has also provided a funding boost to the Australian Space Agency and the Industry Growth Centres, and also expanded the digital games tax offset in the update.
The Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) will get a further $58.8 million over four years, along with $17.5 million annually in ongoing funding, to provide “enhanced digital and ICT oversight and advice”.
It comes after the DTA was moved from Services Australia to Prime Minister & Cabinet and its role shifted to focus on tech oversight and advice rather than service delivery.
The funding boost is despite the agency receiving a significant funding cut in this year’s budget, with just under $40 million stripped from the DTA in May.
The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) has also been given a funding top up, with a one-off $2 million boost in 2021-22, including $600,000 in capital funding. This will serve as a bridge for the privacy watchdog, with its ongoing funding to be determined as part of the ongoing review of the Privacy Act.
There have been concerns that the OAIC has been underfunded and under-resourced for several years, with its ever-growing workload not met with an increase in funding. The OAIC is also facing a funding cliff, with its resourcing set to drop by $13 million next year.
The OAIC was provided just over $23.5 million in 2020-21, a slight decrease on the previous year, but this has now been bumped up to above $25 million.
The Australian Space Agency will also have more cash going forward, with an extra $22.9 million over five years, and $2.1 million in ongoing funding. This will go towards the ongoing operation of the Australian Space Discovery Centre and the extension of the Moon to Mars initiative.
The funding will be partially drawn from existing resources within the Industry department.
The MYEFO update also included $252.5 million over four years in additional funding for the Coalition’s Digital Economy Strategy. This money will be divvied up across a number of programs, including a further $160.9 million over two years from 2022-23 for the digital identity scheme.
It brings the total funding for the federal government’s digital identity program to more than $600 million over more than six years.
More than $27 million over four years will be provided to the Office of the National Data Commissioner, and $2.8 million will go to the Australian Bureau of Statistics to scope enhancements to the data.gov.au website to improve public access to government data.
Part of the overall digital economy funding has already been provided by the government.
A near-$30 million top-up will also be provided to the $1.5 billion Modern Manufacturing Strategy, including nearly $19 million for the Industry Growth Centres and $10 million over four years to align industry programs into “outcome-based investment streams”. This is not new money and will be met from existing resources from the department.
The federal government has allocated $55.5 million over two years for the development of a “secure, internationally-recognised COVID-19 vaccination certification”, with this money partially met with existing resources from Services Australia.
The digital games tax offset, announced earlier this year, will be expanded to include qualifying expenditure on eligible games following their public release from 1 July 2022. This will be provided annually on an activity-basis across any number of post-release eligible games on which an eligible company incurs qualifying expenditure of at least $500,000. The scheme will cost an additional $19.6 million over two years.
Other digital-focused announcements from MYEFO include $2 million over four years for a digital platform to streamline and enhance access to Commonwealth procurement events for SMEs, and a further $521.8 million over 20 years for the Satellite Based Augmentation System.
The government will also pour another $154.5 million over four years into its efforts to modernise Australia’s trade system, with $37 million to go towards digital upgrades to improve biosecurity clearance processes, and $32.1 million to deliver options to enhance cross-border trade alignment and data sharing across governments. This will be partially met from existing resources within the department.
There is also a significant focus on critical minerals in the MYEFO update, with $34.7 million over five years to support the development of “competitive and reliable end-to-end critical minerals supply chains”, and the announcement of a $2 billion Critical Minerals Facility on the National Interest Account.
The Australian Taxation Office will be provided $42.2 million over two years to modernise its IT systems, including strengthening its data-matching capabilities and ability to pre-fill tax returns through myGov.
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