Australia needs a Chief Technologist to help drive policy and regulation and build public confidence around emerging technologies like cryptocurrency and AI.
That’s the view of CEDA, which is calling for a top tech expert and government adviser to sit alongside the Chief Scientist and Chief Medical Officer.
A Chief Technologist would provide independent expert advice to the federal government on the opportunities, challenges and risks of emerging technologies, as well the sorts of policies and regulatory structures that are needed, CEDA’s CEO Melinda Cilento says.
“Over the last 12 months we’ve seen rapid digitisation, aspirations for Australia to become a leading digital nation by 2030 and over $1 billion of investment in technolgoy in the budget,” she told Government News.
“We think a chief Technologist can help to leverage those investments and really propel us towards those ambitions.”
The government unveiled its $1.2 billion digital economy strategy in the federal budget last week.
Ensuring public confidence
Ms Cilento says the statutory office holder, who would probably sit best in the department of industry and science, would not only support stronger stewardship of the national tech agenda but would build public confidence in the benefits of new technologies.
One area where a Chief Technologist would come in handy is around cryptocurrency, she says.
“People within the tech community who are looking to exploit crytocurrency opportunities have actually talked about the need for the right regulatory settings to enable Australia to make the most of the opportunities,” she said.
“Having someone to look at the right regulations to support the interests of users, as well as policies to support is critical to build confidence in the user community.
CEDA outlines the case for a Chief Technologist in its statement Technology and trust priorities for a reimagined economy led by technology.
It says COVID-19 highlighted the importance of having trusted and respected experts to advise and communicate on complex issues, with Chief Medical Officers and Chief Scientists bringing crucial expertise to policy making and acting as a link between governments and the public.
The job requirements would involve expertise, an understanding of community attitudes, and an appreciation of the importance of having a social license for technology and data.
The sooner we can get really strong clear stewardship working with the government, the sector and the community the sooner you can build confidence that we can actually deliver on technology in a way that has real public interest and benefit to the community.Melinda Cilento
It says Australia is lagging behind other nations that have established similar high-level technology stewardship.
The US Federal Chief Technology Officer (CTO) has been driving the government technology agenda forward since 2009 and Canada and Israel both have a CTO. In Israel the officer sits within the national Innovation Authority and is responsible for assessing requests and proposals.
The UK meanwhile has established a Regulatory Horizons Council, that seeks to ensure regulation keeps up with innovation and enables it to thrive, while ensuring public safety.
Ms Cilento says she like to see a Chief Technologist appointed immediately.
“The sooner we can get really strong clear stewardship working with the government, the sector and the community the sooner you can build confidence that we can actually deliver on technology in a way that has real public interest and benefit to the community.”
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