With a line now drawn under one of the longest elections in Australian history, the re-elected government must ensure digital policy remains at the forefront of its thinking and decisions over the next term.
As Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull settles back into the hot seat, Australian Computer Society (ACS) president Anthony Wong said digital skills and capabilities will be key to driving the strength of the Australian economy in the years to come.
“Throughout the election campaign both parties made strong commitments to the ongoing support of digital development and digital literacy,” he said.
“Now, it is time for the incoming government to make good on its promises to secure Australia’s digital future and progress our digital economy.”
As forecast by Deloitte Access Economics, in research commissioned by the ACS, Australia’s digital economy is expected to grow from $70 billion in 2014 to $139 billion by 2020.
In heading the professional association for Australia’s ICT sector, Wong encouraged the Turnbull Government to address the five policy areas identified in the ACS 2016 Election Manifesto, including ensuring that Australia boasts a digitally skilled workforce that is globally competitive.
Findings in Australia’s Digital Pulse 2016 reveal Australia is suffering from a deficit in specialist ICT skills, an undersupply of new ICT graduates - graduates account for only one percent of the ICT workforce - and a lack of diversity in the technology space.
Consequently, Wong said the re-elected government will need to work with the profession, academia and industry in a collaborative manner to address these issues as a matter of economic urgency.
For Wong, an issue that the Turnbull Government cannot turn away from is the impending threat of cyber security.
“We currently have a very real undersupply of cyber security specialists,” he said.
“This is worrying when considering the threat of cyber security could cost Australians as much as $17 billion annually.”
As reported by ARN, the government announced plans to invest $230 million over four years into better protecting both citizens and companies across the country in April, actioned through its Cyber Security Strategy.
In line with the Australian Government’s broader National Innovation and Science Agenda, Turnbull established a strategy with five themes of action for Australia’s cyber security over the next four years to 2020.
This includes a national cyber partnership where governments, businesses, and the research community works together to advance Australia’s cybersecurity landscape, as well as improving cyber defences with an open, jointly operated cyber threat sharing centres and an online cyber threat sharing portal.
In addition, the government revealed plans to improve global responsibility and influence through international partnerships to shut down safe havens and prevent cybercrime and other malicious cyber activity, while also supporting new businesses and promoting the export of Australian cyber security products and services.
Finally, Turnbull pledged to also address the cybersecurity skilled shortage to develop a highly-skilled cybersecurity workforce.
“ACS reiterates its recommendation that the Turnbull Government expedite the implementation of its Cyber Security Strategy, including its plans for workforce training as part of building a cyber smart nation,” Wong added.
Regarding the Turnbull Government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda, Wong said this should not only be continued, but expanded.
“With a mandate from the electorate, ACS encourages the Prime Minister to accelerate the pace of digital education, as a measure to facilitate the transformation of the economy,” he added.
“As the professional body for what is arguably the most important sector for Australia’s future, the ACS stands ready to assist.”
Wong added that it is not just specialist skills in demand, such as computer coding and data analytics.
“As we progress into the information age, digital literacy will become an essential skill and currency, if not already,” he added.
Currently, Wong said 2.5 million Australians in non-ICT roles require digital literacy skills as part of their job - a figure likely to increase exponentially over the next five years.
“We need to equip the Australian workforce with the skills they need to compete in the changing job market,” Wong added.
“The government will need to work increasingly collaboratively with business and educational institutions to achieve this.”
Going forward, Wong said ACS the completion of the National Broadband Network (NBN) must also be seen as an “immediate priority” for the Turnbull Government.
“High speed, high quality broadband is now viewed as a basic utility,” he added. “If we are to encourage growth in our economy, we must provide schools, universities and businesses with the right tools to grow.”
Australia currently ranks 60th in global internet speed ratings and for Wong, “this needs to change”.
Wong said the Australian economy is transitioning into one based on digital services and knowledge and less on resources investment, with ICT skills “key to the nation’s ongoing economic success.
“We look forward to working with the re-elected government on the development of polices that will drive our digital economy and secure a brighter future for all Australians,” he added.