The launch of the Technology Council of Australia last month marked a watershed moment for the industry in this country, adding significant weight to the tech sector’s voice in national conversations about the economy and regulation.
As the peak body for the technology industry, the Tech Council arrived at an incredible moment for the sector.
Its launch came just days after US payment giant Square had announced its stunning plan to acquire ASX-listed AfterPay for $39 billion, the latest in a long line of good news growth stories the local sector has produced in recent years.
If politicians and policymakers were not already paying attention, then Canva’s latest funding raise this week that put a $55 billion valuation on the company will surely have focused attention in Canberra.
In this episode of the Commercial Disco, the newly-appointed Technology Council of Australia chief executive Kate Pounder talks about the mission – to be a single and constructive voice to governments.
The issues that the council will focus on are pretty clear, around tax and growth, talent and skills, and a whole series of regulatory areas.
But in the early months while she builds out the Council membership and structure, Ms Pounder says the immediate focus in on building a better profile for the industry across mainstream Australia – and to highlight the contribution the sector makes to the economy.
The tech industry contributes about $167 billion to the national economy and employs about 861,000 people, according to a report from Accenture commissioned by the Tech Council. That makes it equivalent to the economy’s third largest industry, just behind banking.
“We think it was time that a peak body could speak for that sector as a whole,” Ms Pounder said.
The board has set targets to boost the numbers employed in the sector to 1 million by 2025, and to increase contribution to GDP to $250 billion by 2030.
The sheer numbers of Australians employed in the technology sector will be a surprise to many. A software engineer is now a more common occupation in this country than a plumber, or a hairdresser, or a teacher or a solicitor, she says.
And that’s something people should understand across the entire community; The industry is already huge, but the opportunity for growth is immense.
During the Commercial Disco, Kate Pounder talks about the structure of the organisation, and the way it was designed to be broadly representative and to enshrine the “Australian-ness” of its composition and outlook.
There has been a lot of excitement in the month since the Tech Council launch, and its membership base has quickly grown as large numbers of companies have come on board. “We will make an announcement about the second wave of members [soon] and that will be an indicator of the breadth of the tech sector,” she said.
This is a fascinating discussion, and a good backgrounder on the Tech Council mission, and the way that it defines the technology industry in the country – and sets out an agenda for meeting its growth ambitions.
The 1 million jobs by 2025 and $250 billion contribution to GDP targets were set after benchmarking Australia against the industries in Canada, the UK and the US. The targets are achievable, but certainly challenging.
Ms Pounder says that while the development of the Australian technology sector has made huge progress in the past decade, our ‘direct’ technology sector still lags significantly behind our peers. The targets that the Council set itself are based on an extrapolation of the ecosystem features in Canada.
“I don’t think it is shooting for the stars to say we could be as big as Canada,” she said. “Because Australia has a really similar economy, weighted in mining and agriculture.”
“It is a similar size, and a similar socio-economic split. So there is no reason we can’t ‘beat’ Canada. So if we were able to grow our tech sector activity to the same share of GDP as Canada’s, we would hit that 1 million jobs goal by 2025 as well as the [GDP contribution] goal.”
“There tends to be an underestimation of what the sector is capable of. I don’t think that people appreciate that [the tech sector] already contributes the number of jobs that it does. So one reason we want to set the job target is that we think it is a really constructive effort … to create those opportunities,” Ms Pounder said.
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