The 2021-22 Federal Budget has been released and it has a big technology focus, with the Government pledging nearly AU$1 billion as part of its Digital Economy Strategy. This funding includes spending for Artificial Intelligence (AI), the improvement of Australia’s digital connectivity, and for the development of digital skills for workers, to allow Australia to better compete with the rest of the world in key areas of the digital economy.
Boost to the Government’s Artificial Intelligence Action Plan
To boost the development of AI in business and to break down barriers to the AI industry, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg announced $124.1 million in funding for AI as part of the Government’s Artificial Intelligence Action Plan. Approximately $53.8 million of these funds will go towards setting up a National Artificial Intelligence Centre over the next four years, that will help businesses to develop what the Government hopes will be globally competitive AI products and services.
Funds to create a technology savvy workforce
While the budget’s allocation of funding to universities has been criticised by some analysts, the technological upskilling of Australian workers has been prioritised. Those wanting to work in the fields of artificial intelligence, quantum computing and robotics, will benefit from the creation of digital upskilling cadetships, the Government said. It announced 460 scholarships to develop high-level technological skills in workers, including $10.7 million in funding to create four industry-led pilot programs to develop the pathways to jobs in these high-level technological industries.
Wins for the games industry and consumers
To help develop Australia’s burgeoning games industry, Australian games developers that spend a minimum of AU$500, 000 will get tax breaks, including a 30 per cent refundable tax offset, capped at $20 million dollars per annum, Budget documents stated.
Consumers may soon have better control over their data thanks to an allocation of $11.3 million in the Budget for fast-tracking the roll out of the Consumer Data Right (CDR) scheme. According to the 2021-22 Budget summary document, rollout of the CDR will start with the banking and energy industries and then later include the telecommunications industry. The Government said consumers will soon be able to switch between products and services more easily and share their data between trusted institutions at will.
Streamlining online Government services was a big funding allocation in this year’s Budget, with $200.1 million to be used to upgrade the MyGov online service and a further $301.8 million to upgrade the My Health Record - the online database for collecting and storing your personal health information.
Cybersecurity received $43.8 million which will go towards expanding the Government’s Cyber Security Skills Partnership Innovation Fund, that will train more cybersecurity professionals. The Government is hoping this extra funding will help fill the increasing demand across the Australian economy for cybersecurity experts to protect the digital interests of businesses. An extra $31.7 million will be spent to secure and futureproof Australia’s critical 5G and 6G mobile networks.
Unlocking the digital potential of Northern Australia
In what should be great news for residents of Mt Isa, Cairns and Broome, the Government will invest $105.8 million to fund Round 2 of its Regional Connectivity Program, to develop digital infrastructure in regional and rural Australia. Of this, $45.6 million will be spent to unlock the digital potential of Northern Australia, that the government said was well placed to benefit from emerging business growth and the digital economy.
Commenting on the funding for Northern Australia, Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia, Keith Pitt said the commitment recognises the crucial role digital connectivity plays in northern Australia’s economic development.
“It shouldn’t matter whether you’re in Cairns, Kununurra, Cloncurry or Canberra, we should all have the same access to digital connectivity,” Minister Pitt said.
“Earmarking funding for Northern Australia under the next round of the Program will ensure we can continue to deliver new telecommunications projects as part of our commitment to unlock the huge potential of our country’s north,” he said.