ICT sector is ‘falling behind’: AIIA pre-budget submission

Brandon How

In its pre-budget submission, the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) has outlined 24 policy recommendations for the federal government to secure its target of making Australia a leading digital economy by 2030.

The policy recommendations span digital government, emerging critical technologies, digital skills, domestic capability, commercialisation, and digital health. Most of the recommendations made in the pre-budget submission have been covered in depth across four policy white papers in the last year and a half.

In particular, the AIIA has called for a greater cultivation of digital skills through reforms to the school curriculum and by conducting digital inclusion and literacy campaigns, especially in Australia’s regions. The AIIA wants to see 1.1 million ICT jobs supported in Australia by 2026.

The AIIA has made 24 policy recommendations to the federal government for digital economy development

Some of the other key recommendations are:

  • Establish a National AI Commercialisation Hub
  • Re-engineer My Health Record, including the addition of software that analyses health data and prompts users if risks are identified
  • Extend the proposed patent box regime to other sectors of strategic importance
  • Establish a Made in Australia Office within the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet to support domestic capability priorities
  • Create a Digital Restart Fund to procure Australian innovative unproven solutions to promote startup, scale up, and SME involvement with Government innovation

The submission also includes a list of AIIA recommendations that have already been implemented by the federal government such as appointing a Digital Economy Minister, introducing a patent box tax incentives, and providing additional funding to support the quantum industry.

The full submission can be found here.

The AIIA says the country is at an innovation and technology advancement crossroads following two years of strong sector growth in response to the global pandemic. AIIA chief executive officer Ron Gauci urged the government not to neglect the progress that has already been made.

“This is a time for our political leaders to show that they truly understand the benefits that can be derived from a commitment to and support for Australia’s ICT sector. The growth in ICT is unlimited. It delivers jobs, economic growth, global competitiveness, and it protects Australia’s core industries,” Mr Gauci said.

“Our geographic location is no restriction on our growth potential. Australia has the opportunity to be a globally leading digital economy, but this is the time for the government to act and support the sector through significant policy initiatives.

“Given the global trends and how rapidly we are falling behind, this must be the year our Federal Government shows its full support for the ICT sector to achieve the economic benefits on offer. Our industry is full of organisations with the appetite and commercial experience to respond if it can see tangible support from Government.”

AIIA general manager of public policy Simon Bush also stressed the importance of investing in Australia’s digital economy. In particular he emphasised the need for a national strategy to develop the quantum sector.

Currently, Australia ranks 25th on the Global Innovation index while having the 13th largest economy. Further, although the 2021 budget included $124 million to support AI funding, the AIIA says a majority of this funding has yet to be distributed. Further, there is annual labour shortage of 60,000 ICT workers, in part due to the supply and demand shifts brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The AIIA says this is indicative of the huge amount of work that needs to be done if the federal government is to reach its Digital Economy Strategy of becoming a leading digital economy by 2030 and the Digital Transformation Strategy target of being among the top-three digital governments in the world by 2025.

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