The Prime Minister has encouraged businesses to “be the best at adopting” technology but has cautioned against becoming “one big Silicon Valley.” This has elicited confusion among tech creators who question how Australia can promote technological innovation under a Federal strategy that prioritises practicality over originality.
In an address to the Australian e-Commerce Virtual Summit earlier this week, Prime Minister Scott Morrison flagged his desire to see Australia at the “global frontier of technological adaptation.”
This meant Australia would be a leading “digital economy” by 2030, whilst also maintaining industries such as mining, agriculture and manufacturing.
“[We are] an economy where our leading industry sectors, mining, agriculture, manufacturing, services, as well as small businesses all around the country, are at the global frontier of technological adaptation…
“That doesn’t … mean that Australia has to be one big Silicon Valley.
“No, we’ve just got to be the best at adopting. Taking it on board. Making it work for us. And we’re really good at that.”
Mr Morrison’s digital strategy also includes various upskilling programs to upgrade “the circuit boards of our economy.” For instance, the Government will be putting $1 bn into the JobTrainer fund to deliver skills-training in IT and cyber security and $800 mn into the JobMaker digital business plan.
The Government has also invested $4.5 bn in the NBN and $1.67 bn in cyber security.
However Mr Morrison’s speech has drawn mixed reactions from tech creators across Australia.
Ian Yip, CEO and Co-Founder of cyber-why company Avertro, questioned how Australia could lead in global technologies without encouraging the creation of tech locally.
“The phrase “global frontier of technological adaptation” is paradoxical. One cannot be at the “global frontier of technological” anything, if the proposed steps to get there are to “be the best at adopting” technology built outside of Australia,” said Mr Yip.
“Our Government taking a “follower” mentality when it comes to technology has been one of the core challenges preventing Australia from being the true global innovator we’ve always had the potential to be.
“Countless success stories abound when it comes to Australian technological triumphs; very few of them cite support from the Government or our ecosystem as being a key to their success. This speaks volumes and needs to change for Australia to remain globally relevant from a business standpoint in the longer term; not realising this shows a lack of vision on the part of our Government.”
Michelle Aguilar, CTO and Co-Founder of intelligent engineering software company VAPAR, also said that the Government needed to be more proactive in encouraging local innovations.
“Moving forward, particularly through and following the pandemic, Australia will undoubtedly need more locally grown innovations and technologies and I’d hope to see more support and encouragement from the Government for local startups and ‘tech-heads’ as we navigate the next few years of our ‘new normal’.
“Australians are intrinsically wired to help out and find solutions, so situations where there are no technological solutions to adopt, I’d expect to see Australians building those solutions.”