Australia has long thought of itself as ‘the lucky country’, even if that phrase was first coined to argue that our prosperity was driven not by skill or innovation, but by chance. In today’s COVID-affected economy, Australia has proven lucky and successful in its ability to flatten the curve and begin the revival of our country. Despite our early achievements, however, there is still work to be done, writes Rupert Taylor-Price.
As one of four newest board members at the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA), I believe the work to re-establish the foundations of a new generation of economic growth begins now. It’s no coincidence that I, alongside my fellow board members, are all leaders of Australian-founded and operated, technology SMEs. In our roles as leaders and board members, we must champion the growth of Australia’s technology industry and enact digital change across SME businesses to support economic recovery and growth in the aftermath of COVID-19.
Our future economic prosperity is hinged upon our ability to close the technology gap and foster a new age of digital transformation. This will open Australian businesses up to new and potential opportunities on the global stage. To unlock our nation’s digital potential during this time of change and set ourselves up for future success, I believe our industry leaders and government agencies must focus on three key areas:
1.Harness technology to kickstart the economy
COVID-19 has changed the way we view the role of the workplace. Remote work is the new normal thanks to the help of digital tools. In fact, according to a recent study commissioned by NBN Co, 81 per cent of employees found working remotely positively impacted their work-life balance and more than two thirds expect to work remotely even after organisations return to normal operations.
To continue enabling Australia’s remote workforce on a larger scale, businesses and government must invest in digital infrastructure that will enable productivity and economic prosperity. In the same way that governments invest in physical infrastructure, they must redirect funds towards building key foundational elements that will help strengthen Australia’s efficiency and overall productivity – such as modernising outdated legacy systems, embracing technologies like cloud computing, and optimising access to our nation’s data and information.
2.Invest in our domestic capabilities
At the peak of the pandemic, our nation swiftly realised the importance of building our own domestic capabilities. For example, just a few months ago, no one was actively considering our sovereign ability to produce and distribute hand sanitiser or masks. It wasn’t until a crisis struck that we recognised the challenges that come with reliance on other nations.
In order to build our domestic capabilities, we must first increase our investment in technology, which will unlock new opportunities for domestic businesses to become more profitable, produce high demand products and services and boost our digital economy to compete on the global stage. To keep up with this digital boom, an estimated 18,000 technical roles in need of filling by 2026.
To continue our upward momentum and fill these new jobs, governments, educational institutions, and titans of industry must work together to develop a standard certification program that can be accessed by all Australians. Only through education can we ensure our future workforce will be ready for the demands that come with increased domestic capabilities.
3.Establish clear data sovereignty rules and regulations
In addition to investing in our technological and domestic capabilities, we must also create laws that support our own data sovereignty and advancement.
As the pandemic hit share markets and stirred uncertain revenue forecasts, many Australian businesses found themselves at risk of what treasurer Josh Frydenberg calls “predatory” takeovers by opportunistic foreign governments.
While our government has implemented legislation to support our own data sovereignty – as demonstrated in recent changes to the Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Act 1975 (FATA), which empowers the Treasurer to review, limit, or prohibit foreign investments in “sensitive national security businesses – more must be done.
We must further embrace our own capabilities by storing our nation’s data on-shore and by managing it through security-cleared Australian citizens. This way, we can not only guarantee the security of Australia’s private and sensitive data but also build the infrastructure needed to support our growing tech presence for the years ahead.
Australia’s future looks bright if we choose to embrace this uncertain time as an opportunity for digital and economic growth. A focus on collaboration and accelerating Australia’s digital growth will not only position us not only as a lucky country, but as a digital leader on the global stage.
*Rupert Taylor-Price has recently been appointed to the board of the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) where along with industry peers he will advise on digital change, growth and recovery in the aftermath of Covid-19. He is CEO of cloud services company Vault Cloud.
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