Australia risks "slipping behind" in digital future

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Australia risks "slipping behind" in digital future

The federal government has released its consultation paper designed to “start the conversation” around deciding how the country’s digital future should come about through the Digital Economy Strategy to be released early next year.

The strategy will be developed in consultation with industry, thought-leaders, small and medium-sized businesses, government, community and the private sector, and seeks to find the best approach to benefiting from digital transformation and future job creation.

Through the strategy, the government expects the Australian economy will grow $140 billion to $250 billion in eight years. The strategy will explore digital business, skills and infrastructure challenges and consider topics including: how technology can drive productivity and competitive increases in existing industries; how Australia can develop digital businesses that serve global needs; and how to empower Australians with the right skills to succeed in a digital economy.

“Digital technologies have immense potential to drive competition, innovation and productivity. There is evidence that business investment in digital technologies results in higher productivity, but Australian businesses are not fast adopters of technology by international standards,” the consultation paper read.

To push comes amidst the government’s assertion that Australia “risks slipping behind the rest of the world in digital readiness”. Citing that Australia is now ranked 18th on the
World Economic Forum’s Network Readiness Index, having slipped two places from the prior year. The index measures that capacity of countries to leverage IT and communications technology to improve competitiveness and wellbeing. In business, the paper said, Australia ranked worse, at 24 in the WEF rankings.

The paper also highlighted that 80 percent of small and medium-sized businesses were delaying the adoption of technology that could offer long-term benefits.

The paper went on to outline several key areas of technology growth it expects will drive the digital economy going forward, including digital infrastructure, which includes connectivity through high-speed fixed line or advanced mobile networks such as 5G; government data sharing initiatives, to open up access to data assets for businesses and researchers; changing standards and regulations to address cloud, IoT, AI and data analytics; better digital government services; and cybersecurity, which the government views as a key area for investment in order to boost the local industry.

The government invites those interested to share their views by visiting the Digital Economy website.

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