Covid-19 recovery hinges on digital investment says industry report

Published on the 02/07/2020 | Written by Jonathan Cotton


Digital Australia_AIIA industry report

The AIIA releases a sweeping post-Covid-19 wishlist…

Economically, we’re headed for uncertain times, but the AIIA is insisting the glass is half full. As Australia emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic somewhat better than many other nations, there’s an opportunity to capitalise on the good fortune, says the tech industry representative body’s latest whitepaper.

“Australia truly is the lucky country,” begins the report, entitled Building Australia’s Digital Future in a Post-COVID World, a ‘blueprint for the economic recovery of our nation’.

“We have flattened the curve, have managed our economy well over the past decade so that governments could direct billions of dollars into the economy to support workers and businesses and we have one of the best health systems in the world.

“The opportunities the pandemic has presented for fast action and leadership are significant.”

“Our political and other institutions have led in this time of crisis, whereas many other countries have struggled.”

Given that upper hand, the AIIA (Australian Information Industry Association) says that it’s crucial that the Federal Government takes a digital-first approach to infrastructure investment, starting now.

Overseen by a committee consisting of senior figures from IBM, Vault Cloud, KPMG, Deloitte, SAP Australia, Telstra and Adobe, the paper offers a series of short-, medium- and long-term recommendations to state and federal governments to help guide policy development, especially in regards to digital investment.

Broadly speaking, those recommendations fall into four key areas: Building a national ‘Digital Backbone’; resilience; digital skills for the future; and tax, incentive and government procurement reform.

There’s a slew of actions that can be taken quickly, says the AIIA, with the paper urging Prime Minister Scott Morrison to ‘urgently’ appoint a senior minister who can advise Cabinet and bring whole-of-government coordination duties to the digital economy.

Similarly, the Government should lead – in collaboration with industry – the development of a data-sharing code of conduct that ‘sits within the current privacy legislation and provides guidelines as to how government and industry handle, manage, protect and use customer and citizen data’.

Additionally, the Government should set-up a ‘digital standards commission’ responsible for creating and enforcing a set of national standards for digital infrastructure, or ‘the digital backbone’, as mentioned above.

The paper also calls for Australia’s 2020 Cyber Security strategy to be extended to include business resiliency and enhanced support for Australian SMEs, including tax incentives that assist small businesses to become better technology-enabled.

The recommendations are sweeping. Over the longer term, the AIIA wants the scope of the proposed National Freight Hub expanded: “There is an opportunity to expand the scope to support a unified platform for the industry to share freight visibility data and ensure privacy for drivers, a major concern across the industry and confidentiality of commercial information.”

How about freeing up the flow of vehicle data? The availability of data for government and industry could be increased by mandating vehicle telemetry and introducing a standardised minimum set of real-time data reporting on trucks across light-rigid class and all heavier class, and expanding acceptable telemetry technology to include low cost options, offers the AIIA.

When it comes to skills, the industry body recommends accelerated upskilling of industry trainers by reducing mandatory training and assessment course duration to six weeks, rather than the current 11 months.

The paper also requests that the current JobKeeper payment scheme be updated with a portion of the current funding allocated to training credits ‘for employers to re-skill their workforce in critical technical skills’.

The AIIA also wants changes to the way AusIndustry – the Government’s business program delivery division in the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education – does business. That includes AusIndustry consulting ‘with at least one relevant industry expert before making a formal finding against a company applicant’, and completing R&D Registration Application reviews within 90 days of receiving them.

In regards to tax, the AIIA is recommending the creation of a new dedicated software development tax incentive, as well as a quarterly credits program, letting companies access R&D tax incentives during the income year.

Looking to the longer term, the AIIA says the Government needs to provide the incentives to retain platforms and capabilities onshore, with an emphasis on fostering and protecting national IP, and further down the track, should establish a large, long-term and dedicated industry-focused program – outside of normal research funding arrangements – to stimulate investment in Quantum technologies and industry partnerships.

There’s a lot to discuss, but the AIIA is nevertheless urging decisive action.

“The opportunities the Covid-19 pandemic has presented for fast action and leadership are significant but the challenge has never been greater to get it right,” says AIIA CEO, Ron Gauci.

“It’s been evident that every industry has found new technologies to make them more productive, efficient, reduce costs, find new markets and compete more aggressively on the global stage.

“This is why there is a real need for governments to look to and invest in technology-driven solutions to grow our economy and support job creation.

“Now is the time to make investment in projects that will re-shape what we do, where and how we do it.”

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