Australia’s Budget pushes digitalisation to drive economic recovery
Australia’s peak industry representative body for innovation technology, the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA), welcomed the Federal Government’s Budget as an important milestone to achieve a globally competitive and leading digital economy.
In an historic development, the Federal Budget will deliver major billion-dollar investments in creating digital capability across the economy including the SME sector; from 5G and broadband infrastructure, government digitisation projects, to investments in digital skills, apprenticeships and cyber uplift capability.
The decision by the Government to reverse the proposed R&D cuts is also welcomed especially for small claimants of the incentive, with less than A$20 million annual turnover and simplifying the intensity tests from three tiers to two will benefit from an increase in the refundable R&D tax offset rate and there will be no A$4 million cap on annual cash refunds. The AIIA has long advocating for their continued targeted aid for start-ups and the innovation tech sector.
The AIIA CEO, Ron Gauci said the Budget demonstrates innovation and technology plays a vital role in Australia’s post COVID-19 economic recovery including the direct creation of tens of thousands of jobs. “We welcome the focus on building jobs as well as skills, apprenticeships and training. We believe it’s important to support women in STEM,” he said. “We welcome the expansion for the Women in STEM and Entrepreneurship (WISE) Grants Program as well as access to the Girls in STEM Toolkit, this will ensure we are working towards closing the skills gap.
“We see this October 2020 budget as laying the groundwork for further important measures in the May 2021 budget to fully realise the Prime Minister’s ambition for Australia to become a leading digital economy. With the pending retirement of Minister Cormann and the reshuffle opportunity that his departure presents, we also call on the Government to create a Minister for Digital Capability to ensure that cross government digital initiatives critical to Australia’s future success are represented in Cabinet and to industry.
It is pleasing that the Morrison Government clearly understands that digital investments are critical to our economic recovery and sustainability through creation of employment and stimulus through spending on projects. We also strongly support government initiatives that continue to improve capability and productivity of government ICT systems that have demonstrated through COVID their criticality to Australia through business and citizen support,” Gauci said.
Many of the Budget investments are consistent with the recommendations suggested in the AIIA’s White Paper, titled ‘Building Australia’s Digital Future in a Post-COVID World’.
The A$800 million in funding to bolster the digitisation of Australian businesses will see an enhancement of Australia’s digital infrastructure. It will support the digitisation of the government’s business register, expansion of the digital identity system, help underpin SMEs’ transition to the digital economy and boost business access to the 5G network. The budget also delivers an investment to upgrade the NBN (A$4.5b) to boost speeds and a further A$1.67b in funding for the nation’s cyber security strategy but the AIIA says more can be done.
“While this will bring great benefits to the Australian economy, it doesn’t address the current important skills shortages in key ICT roles. The Government must continue work to address Australia’s digital skills to support our digital transformation and digital sovereignty,” Gauci concluded.
Terry Burgess, VP APAC at SailPoint said digital identities become more difficult to protect, the introduction of facial recognition to access services like Centrelink is an obvious next step for the government.
“We’ve seen the element of disguise become a hacker’s greatest weapon and stolen identities are now commonplace. However, effectively managing access requires more than just one layer of verification,” he said. “The digital identity system must have a zero-trust strategy – constant verification across government services – to ensure identity and access doesn’t hinge on the latest buzz solution.”