If the emergence of wealth-creation engines like Atlassian, Canva and Afterpay had not already signalled a new centre of economic power in this country, then the launch of the Technology Council of Australia will send the message loud and clear.
The Technology Council of Australia formally came to life on Wednesday as a new institutional power to be added to the political mix of industrial policy advocacy. And it arrived with plenty of power under the hood.
Based in Canberra, it is chaired by Tesla’s Robyn Denholm and comes with a board that includes billionaire founders and CEOs, and former state and federal ministers.
It’s 25 foundation member companies includes Australian startup and scale-up success stories, local venture capital outfits, as well as multinational tech giants. It’s a broad church of powerful interests, brought together through the energy and foresight of former StartupAus chief executive Alex McCauley.
The council has recruited the highly regarded former Accenture managing director Kate Pounder as its inaugural CEO. Ms Pounder is a public policy and research specialist, having previously worked in senior executive roles at Alpha Beta, McKinsey and the Australian Industry Group.
Like the Business Council of Australia, the Minerals Council of Australia, and the Property Council of Australia, the freshly minted Technology Council of Australia carries plenty of heft.
Consider the rest of its board, in addition to Tesla chair Robyn Denholm:
- Scott Farquhar, Co-CEO, Atlassian (Director)
- Anthony Eisen, Co-founder and Co-CEO, Afterpay (Director)
- Cliff Obrecht, Co-founder and COO, Canva (Director)
- Mina Radhakrishnan, CEO, :Different (Director)
- Didier Elzinga, CEO, Culture Amp (Director)
- Wyatt Roy, Former Federal Minister (Executive Director)
- Kate Jones, Former Queensland Minister (Executive Director)
- Alex McCauley, former CEO, StartupAus (Executive Director)
- Kate Pounder, CEO, Tech Council of Australia
It carries the simple aim to provide a coordinated and clear voice to government on policy matters that impact the sector.
It will also build a more accurate public narrative for the tech industry that highlights the current size of the sector, the scale of the near-term opportunity for growth, its positive role as a job creator, as well as its role as a productivity engine for the rest of the economy.
To coincide with its launch, the Tech Council released new research from Accenture that says the technology industry generated $167 billion of economic output in the 2021 financial year, equivalent to 8.5 per cent of GDP.
If the sector was classified as its own industry, it would be equivalent to the third largest contributor to GDP in Australia. That’s just behind mining and finance, and ahead of major industries such as health care, construction, and retail.
The sector’s economic contribution has increased 79 per cent since 2016, and has outpaced average growth in the economy by more than four times.
The sector currently employs 861,000 Australians. The Tech Council wants to boost this number to employ more than one million by 2025, and to increase the value of tech to the economy to $250 billion by 2031.
Robyn Denholm says “with the right investment and partnership, the tech jobs opportunity can get much bigger. Since 2005, tech jobs have grown by 66 per cent, compared to an average jobs growth rate of 27 per cent across the economy.”
“During the pandemic, the tech sector generated 65,000 jobs, one of the economy’s highest job creators,” she said.
The tech sector had already been critical to underpinning Australia’s COVID-19 response as the widespread adoption of cloud software and other tech enabled businesses and workers to avoid total economic shutdown and enable critical services across major sectors.
“While we have a lot of uncertainty across the rest of the economy. Technology has succeeded despite this uncertainty. Crucially, it is an enabler of all other sectors, helping mining, agriculture, banking, and health drive new growth and productivity.”
“As we rebuild our economy in the years ahead, technology has the potential to expand and create great jobs for our kids and grandkids. Near term, by 2030, the technology sector has the potential to contribute more to GDP than either primary industries or manufacturing,” Ms. Denholm said.
Newly appointed chief executive Kate Pounder wants Australians to be fully aware of the opportunities to access jobs in the sector.
“The boom in tech related jobs means there are now more software engineers and developers in Australia than hairdressers, plumbers, or high school teachers. That’s 1 in 16 working Australians.”
“Workers in our sector can be found all across the country. Tech workers are most likely to live in Western Sydney and Melbourne’s outer suburbs because of their housing affordability, with Southeast Queensland actually fastest growing area for tech jobs.
“This is especially important given the diversity of companies in the tech sector including 35,200 sole traders, 26,100 businesses with fewer than 20 employees and 100 large firms of 200+ employees,” Ms Pounder said.
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“Workers in our sector can be found all across the country. Tech workers are most likely to live in Western Sydney and Melbourne’s outer suburbs because of their housing affordability, with Southeast Queensland actually fastest growing area for tech jobs.”
Perth needs to be on this map too. Great potential there (and great weather).
It’s great that a tech council has been created and identified that it contributed to a significant proportion of GDP, but a question needs to be asked, how much tax did Atlassian pay last year? Why allow companies that don’t pay their taxes in Australia be a member of a council that is addressing national agenda?
Agree great to see. Important that the Tech Council works in partnership with other groups such as the Australian Information Industry Association and finds a pathway to bring our primary care, GPs, hospitals, aged care and community services sector into an interoperable digital world at long last.
A most welcome and much needed initiative. The Technology industry has lack a strong leader for the last couple of decades. It has had too many small and narrow cast membership organisations that put self interest of their leadership group ahead of the Australian technology sector’s in failing to create a united voice. This result clearly has the support of leaders who have created powerful, global organisations from Australia and are now keen to promote Australia’s best interests. Fabulous!
Great to see this coming together and the quality of the team involved, but slightly disappointed at the lack of any representation from the hardware/deep tech space. It’s not all about software/apps/fintech out there…
Simon Poole AO
VP Business Development
Cylite Pty Ltd
@Simon Poole – wholeheartedly agree with you. As it stands, it’s a great team to be called the SaaS Council of Australia or similar…