The Morrison government has named a 14-member advisory committee of digital experts made up of industry groups, multinationals and startups to guide the Prime Minister’s recently-established Digital Technology Taskforce.
The taskforce was announced in November and was set the goal of transforming Australia into “a leading digital economy” by 2030.
The Taskforce itself is made up of policymakers from across government, including representatives from Prime Minister and Cabinet, Treasury, Attorney-General’s, Home Affairs, the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications, as well as Education and the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources.
The Digital Transformation Agency, which is nominally charged with driving digital services uptake across the public sector, is not on the Taskforce, nor its parent agency Services Australia – the largest delivery agency in government.
The plan to create the Digital Experts Advisory Committee was unveiled in early December but its composition was only announced on Friday.
The make-up of the advisory committee ticks many boxes, with heavy representation for Big Tech and big business. As is most often the case, the Australian tech industry is underrepresented. Just two members are directly involved from the local sector – AgriTech startup Platfarm co-founder Oli Madgett, and Chris Vonwiller the chair of ASX-listed data specialt Appen.
Other members of the committee include:
- Sunita Bose, the managing director of DIGI, the Big Tech industry lobby known as DIGI, the Digital Industry Group Inc (Inc)
- Jeff Connolly, the long-servicing chairman and chief executive of German industrial giant Siemens’ local operation
- Cheryl Hayman, a multi-board director including the Chartered Accountants, as well as Chair of ASX-list nutritional supplements company Clover
- Robert Hillard, consulting giant Deloitte’s chief strategy and innovation officer and president of the multinational-focused Australian Information industry Association
- Sue MacLeman, the chair of MTPConnect, the federally funded MedTech and pharmaceuticals industry growth centre. Ms MacLeman is also on the board of several pharmaceutical companies
- Professor Jason Potts, chair of the RMIT university’s Blockchain Innovation Hub
- Tim Reed, the chair of the Business Council of Australia and former chief executive at MYOB
- Michael Shoebridge, the director of defence, strategy and national security at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute
- Andrew Stevens, the chair of the government advisory group Innovation and Science Australia. Mr Stevens is also chair of the Data Standards Body for the Consumer Data Right implementation.
- Lauren Solomon, chief executive officer at the Consumer Policy Research Centre
- Wendy Stops, who is a non-executive director at CBA, Coles, and Fitted for Work, and is a council member at the University of Melbourne
- Peter Strong, the chief executive officer at COSBOA, the Council of Small Business Organisations Australia
The committee is scheduled to meet every quarter until the middle of 2021. The taskforce is looking at ways the Australian Government can boost productivity through the uptake of digital technology.
It will also look at ways digital tech can benefit all Australians while minimising any harms.
Innovation and Science Australia chair Andrew Stevens said the challenge to meet the Prime Minister’s goal of becoming a leading digital nation by 2030 is substantial. Setting the goal should be seen as a watershed moment for the country, and would be focused on non-R&D innovation that is heavily software related.
“The reality of the challenge to meet, and possibly, exceed this objective is substantial. As the ISA Report launched last week showed, less than 6 per cent of Australian businesses say they are spending any money on R&D, and less than a third of businesses say they are spending any money on innovation,” Mr Stevens told InnovationAus.
“The difference between the 6 per cent and the 30 per cent is the expenditure of businesses on ‘non-R&D’ Innovation,” he said.
“No- R&D Innovation doesn’t involve a ‘scientific method’ and includes business model innovation, business process change, product and brand development.
“In other words, its heavily software related. And software investment and capabilities are key ingredients in becoming a leading digital economy.
“So with less than a third of Australian businesses spending any money on Innovation (R&D and non R&D in nature), the magnitude of the task of becoming a leading digital economy is substantial.”
DIGI managing director Sunita Bose welcomed the government’s engagement on digital issues through the creation of the Digital Technology Taskforce and “fantastic to see the digital economy back on the policy agenda.”
She said the Digital Experts Advisory Committee had already started discussions on the pathway needed over the next decade to make Australia a leading digital economy by 2030.
“Over the next 18 months, we’ll be diving into how we ensure that Australians can benefit from digital technology, how to bolster productivity, and also protect people from potential harm,” Ms Bose told InnovationAus.
“That’s very much in line with DIGI’s vision of how we create a thriving Australian digitally-enabled economy that fosters innovation, a growing selection of digital products and services, and where online safety and privacy are protected — so I’m really pleased to be able to offer my input.”