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Tech & Digital Industry reactions to Budget’s billion-dollar digital strategy

Australia’s digital landscape was an area of focus in the Federal Government’s recently-announced 2021 Budget.

$1.2 billion is being put towards the Digital Economy Strategy, aiming to make Australia one of the world’s leading digital economies with tax incentives and more money in areas such as AI, cyber security, quantum computing and more.

Companies in the space have welcomed the Government’s big investment in a digital economy, although issues such as a lack of skillsets and staff shortages remain of high concern.

Take a look at what some of Australia’s tech and digital companies had to say about the Government’s digital strategy:

JJ Phillips, Country Manager for Australia and New Zealand at data software company Alteryx:  

“It was encouraging to see the Australian Government outline a range of reforms and investments for digital infrastructure and digital skills as part of its national economic recovery agenda. The significant new funding initiatives announced in the Digital Economy Strategy, including a work-based digital skills cadetship program and funding for projects aimed at extracting value from government data assets, have the potential to improve service delivery, upskill the modern workforce and drive a more sustainable private sector recovery.

“Over the next 12 months, it’s evident that the tech skills shortage will remain a key challenge for businesses, with stalled skilled migration from extended border closures until mid-2022. With accelerated business digitisation, we could see a growing mismatch between those looking for work and the types of workers that employers need. It’s a critical imperative for fiscal policy to embed a longer-term strategy that addresses structural changes in the labour market and encourages businesses to grow their own talent and create new jobs.”  

Roby Sharon-Zipser, Co-Founder and CEO of online service directories and lead generation platform hipages:

“The Government’s focus on AI development as part of the Digital Economy Strategy is of particular interest to us at hipages Group, and we’ll be looking at ways to get involved through grants and collaboration. Currently, we have 1.1 million tradespeople servicing 9.9 million households. There is a tradie shortage and the tradie versus homeowner imbalance is only growing. We know that one in four tradies are forced to give up jobs due to the burden of admin, equating to around $120k p.a. of lost work per tradie. Technology adoption that streamlines their admin and creates efficiencies, so they can focus on their craft, is a critical component for sustaining the sector’s stability. While the possibilities are endless, we’d be interested in looking into how AI can help assist with job estimations without being on site; the ability to recommend optimal routes for vehicles and deliveries; or even delivering tools and equipment via drone.”

ALSO READ – Budget 2021’s patent box scheme to boost Australian medical & biotech innovations, but is it too limited?

Ron Gauci, CEO of the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA): 

“We applaud the Federal Government’s recognition that this transformation is not merely a national one but a global one that is happening. The AIIA has been calling out our need to keep pace with the global trend. The investment of $1.2 billion is recognition of the fact that the ICT sector is at the heart of every industry and the Federal Government must continue to invest in this sector to secure our economic independence for years to come.

“We have been advocating for significant investment in health, skills, cybersecurity, digital payments and AI. [The] investment of $124.1 million for AI shows the Federal Government’s continued commitment to ensuring Australia becomes a leading digital economy. However, in April we demonstrated that to fully fund a National AI Strategy, $250 million was needed. While investment in R&D is important, more needs to be done to ensure that there is significant investment in the commercialisation of AI here in Australia to deliver jobs and economic growth. Without it we will continue to fall behind the rest of the world.”

Michael Stocks, Head of Strategy and Operations at social tech platform Linktree: 

“It’s encouraging to see the federal government announce substantial investments in the digital economy. These investments won’t just help tech startups, they are critical to unlocking the future capabilities of the entire economy. Healthcare, education and professional services all stand to benefit. Building the digital economy of tomorrow needs to start today. Australia’s long term economic future depends on it. 

“A digital economy drives jobs, productivity and economic resilience. It will play a significant role in Australia’s economic recovery. 

“In addition to supporting the digital transformation and capabilities of small businesses, we are excited to see continued investment, support and recognition for innovation within the digital sector. Encouraging business investment and uptake of digital technologies will mean we can scale the roll out of Australian inventions around the world. 

“Australians have the ideas, the passion and the potential for technological disruption, but our nation’s current challenge lies in finding enough people with the skills needed to digitise Australia’s economy. The focus on digital skills training and cadetships announced as part of the Digital Economy Strategy will help Australian start up –  and scaling – technology businesses to drive growth and innovation across all sectors.”    

ALSO READ – Federal budget 2021: Reduction of red tape to save businesses $430m a year

Attributed to Jason Baden, Regional Vice President, ANZ at application delivery networking and application security company F5:

“It is encouraging to see the government investing $1.2 billion into the Digital Economy Strategy which includes a focus on the creation of the National Artificial Intelligence Centre to drive business adoption of AI technologies by coordinating Australia’s AI expertise and capabilities. Australian business stands to gain significantly from the adoption of new technologies including AI as, not only is AI efficient in app security, but without the right technology businesses struggle to unlock the full value of application insights to inform the critical decision-making necessary to adapt to rising customer expectations. In the recently released 2021 State of Application Strategy report, F5 found that nearly three-quarters of survey respondents intend to leverage on AI to better utilise telemetry data, and more than half are looking toward AI to help their organisations transition to applications that can automatically adapt to better defend themselves and respond to changing threat conditions.”

Mike Featherstone, Managing Director, APAC & ANZ, at technology workforce development company Pluralsight:

“Digital transformation continues to drive change around the world with markets betting big on the digital economy and driving investment into upskilling workers. While there are some very encouraging signs in the 2021-22 Budget announcement including a $1.2 billion investment in the Digital Economy Strategy, a significant gap remains in the form of a clear pathway to technology skills development. Few things in business are predictable—as we’ve witnessed firsthand in the past year—but one thing is for certain: your tech strategy is your business strategy—and you can’t have a winning tech strategy without a mature skills strategy.

“Neglecting the development of digital skills within Australia leaves the country reliant on attracting global talent that is both in high demand in every market, and unrealistic in our current climate bound by COVID’s restrictions on travel. While some investment has been made, much more will be required if Australia hopes to become a leading digital economy by 2030.”

Amy Foo, Managing Director Australia and New Zealand, at customer service software company Zendesk:

“We are pleased to see the government’s focus on — and support for — Australia’s technology and innovation ecosystem in the 2021 Federal Budget that was handed down by the Treasurer last night.

“The Digital Economy strategy will help lay the foundations by building out the infrastructure and advancing our nation’s capabilities in emerging fields. Artificial intelligence has been earmarked as an area of focus, and one in which Zendesk is continuing to invest through our dedicated regional tech hub in Melbourne. These measures will help progress Australia’s digital transformation, allowing for more businesses to digitise their processes and more importantly, accelerate Australia’s economic recovery.”

Grant Bissett, Co-Founder of online payment platform Pin Payments:

“Australia is now the tenth largest ecommerce market globally, with a revenue of over $34 billion, as such investment in the digital economy was a clear and obvious move, given many SMBs were forced online during the snap-transition to digital during the pandemic.

“While it’s definitely positive to see an additional $12.7 million dollars has been assigned to the Digital Solution program, this program primarily looks at helping micro businesses (with less than 20 staff) and sole traders, with advisory services. Greater transparency on how the government will provide support to SMBs to improve their digital tools and literacy through services like online payments systems, marketing and ecommerce, still needs to be addressed.

“Granted the government’s budget is a move in the right direction, there needs to be a clearer strategy surrounding the precise support that will be delivered to SMBs, to ensure they have the right tools to adapt and thrive in the new ‘digital economy’.

“However, from an online payments perspective, it’s encouraging to see a further $15.3 million has been assigned to drive business uptake of e-invoicing, which the government is suggesting
may deliver up to $28.2 billion in net benefits over 10 years.

“Australian businesses exchange more than 1.2 billion invoices each year, however of those about 90 per cent are still manual, according to budget documents. E-invoicing is essential in future-proofing a business, given the major shift the pandemic has had on the payments landscape.”

Find more of our 2021 BUDGET coverage right HERE.

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Guillermo Troncoso

Guillermo Troncoso

Guillermo is the Editor of Dynamic Business and Manager of film &amp; television entertainment site ScreenRealm.com. Follow him on <a href="https://twitter.com/gtponders">Twitter</a>.

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