Highlights from the 2021-22 Federal Budget
- $1.2b Digital Economy Strategy
- $124.1m in AI initiatives, including a National Artificial Intelligence Centre led by CSIRO Data 61 to drive adoption of AI across the economy.
- $35.7m to support emerging aviation technologies
- $111.3m to continue implementation of the Consumer Data Right in the banking sector
- $40m to Geoscience Australia to create 3D digital atlas of Australia’s geography, people, economy, employment, infrastructure and health into one national data set
- $16.5m pilot program to make government data assets more discoverable
- $100m to support digital skills for Australians
- $200.1m investment to overhaul myGov
- $50m to enhance cyber security in government, data centres and future telecommunications networks
- Modernising laws within the Treasury portfolio so they are technology-neutral
The children of today have never known a world that wasn’t internet enabled. They will become the consumers, business owners and workers of tomorrow and will continue to expect technology and connectivity on demand – but in uber personalised ways that are only now just becoming available. Technological innovations are happening at lightning speed – propelled forward even faster thanks to COVID and the change in working and social habits.
It makes sense to imbue policy initiatives with technology. It’s an enabler of better customer experiences, improved efficiencies, new opportunities and hopefully lower emissions. However, the invisible data thread holding it all together is both a future opportunity and a future challenge for Australian businesses.
There’s an app for that
I’m particularly interested in how the Government intends to lead from the front as an adopter of technology. The commitment from Treasury to be technology neutral – so enabling anyone to be able to interact with Treasury in ways that best suit them, and the significant $1.2b Digital Economy Strategy are amongst the most recent announcements.
This complements the 2020 Cyber Security Strategy which set out plans to develop and implement a number of strategies to support the transition to a digital economy. For instance, a Digital Identity System (facial recognition) to access government services, Digital Readiness Assessment tools and Digital Directors training packages, consultation to make temporary reforms to allow companies to hold virtual meetings and execute documents electronically permanent, and mandating the adoption of electronic invoicing by 1 July 2022 for all Commonwealth agencies.
The Minister for Government Services, Stuart Robert, said only weeks before the Federal Budget was handed down that he was committed to delivering “integrated digital infrastructure that will enable government as a platform”. In fact, a new government app for all Federal Government services (beta testing as mygov blue) is due to be rolled out at the end of this year.
So if you want to work with the Federal Government, or access their services, then the private sector and private citizens must also follow.
A digital economy must also be a sustainable one
While technology underpins the success of many of the Government’s initiatives, underneath that is a thick layer of dependence on energy. Technology, data, WiFi, streaming, automated manufacturing, the Cloud, 24/7 connectivity, personalised digital experiences, personal and corporate digital footprints are all incredibly energy intensive.
According to a March 2019 study by the Shift Project, a Paris-based thinktank, digital technologies account for more carbon emissions than the aerospace industry (obviously pre-COVID). So a digital economy must also be a sustainable and net zero emissions economy as well. While there are plans afoot to transition Australia away from coal and to new, renewable and technologically advanced energy sources, we have to recognise that delays in not only rolling out these plans, but also scaling them up quickly, will be a barrier to the success of a digital economy. The stagnation of the digital economy will impede modern manufacturing. The impediment to modern manufacturing will leave us vulnerable to future global events like COVID. We need all parts of the puzzle to work together or risk being left behind.
National digital currencies the tip of iceberg of what’s to come
Think embedding a digital economy is enough? Well there is more on the horizon with the UK conducting a study into the potential implementation of BritCoin, a national digital currency. This has been on the cards for many years but hasn’t yet been fully investigated. I understand why: it has the potential to completely shake up traditional financial institutions, the flow of funds and our taxation systems. It has the potential to change the playing field between international marketplaces. It could have an impact on the price of products or your mortgage. However, the investment in systems like blockchain, and the initiatives being put in place by the Government now help to set the scene for an eventual move to a digital currency. All countries will invariably follow – it’s simply a matter of when.
Cyber security risks already on the rise. Company Directors are on the hook.
Cyber security and Board responsibility is not a new discussion. Heavily regulated industries – e.g. banks under APRA – are no stranger to cyber risk management as a key director duty. However, with the Cyber Security Strategy recommending changes to directors’ duties under the Corporations Act, directors across all sectors are likely to come under scrutiny – with the ASX 200 first cab off the rank.
As our economy becomes increasingly digital, the risks are increasing. With corporate espionage and cybercrime on the rise and more corporate and personal data stored online, no sector is immune and all data is valuable in the dark web.