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Australian Government Invests Nearly $1 billion in Digital Economy Plan

The federal government has pledged to invest nearly $1 billion into a Digital Economy Strategy that will help Australia focus on digitisation in the next ten years. The strategy is part of the government’s 2021-22 budget, released on May 11th.

The Digital Economy Plan draws on the mass digitalisation businesses undertook during COVID-19, arguing, “Australia needs to maintain this momentum to secure our future prosperity and protect our interests.”

Naturally, the strategy focuses on several key areas: cybersecurity, artificial intelligence (AI), digital skills, aviation, data and digitising small businesses. This article will outline the investments in each area and how they will impact Australian businesses.

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Government’s Digital Economy Plan: Breakdown

According to the federal government, the Digital Economy Strategy is designed “for Australia to be a leading digital economy and society by 2030”. As part of this goal, the plan aims to:

  • Make 100% of government services available online

  • Get 95% of Small and Medium Businesses (SME’s) to use eCommerce tools (like e-invoicing, for example)

  • Drive 10% of the workforce into “digitally intensive industries”

  • Make all new businesses “born” digital

  • Improve business cybersecurity

  • Increase the number of digitally skilled graduates by 15,000 per year

Six key areas of investment support these aims.

Cybersecurity, e-Safety and Trust

The Digital economy plan has pledged millions of dollars towards improving Australia’s cybercrime and safety. This includes $31.7 towards the 5G and 6G networks and $15.4 for the Peri-Urban Mobile Program. The Peri-Urban Mobile Program will improve mobile connectivity in bushfire prone areas on the fringe of major cities.

The government will also strengthen businesses and individuals’ data security by developing a National Data Security Action Plan and funding the ‘Cyber Hubs’ program – which will support Canberra-based IT firms in improving the cybersecurity of smaller government departments.

These initiatives are only the latest cybersecurity investments. Last year, the government also funded a $1.67 billion Cyber Security Strategy to create “a more secure online world for Australians, their businesses and the essential services upon which we all depend”.

According to the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, cybercrime costs the economy over $1 billion annually, and 43% of cybercrimes target small businesses.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

The Digital Economy Strategy has also pledged $124.2 million towards Artificial Intelligence (AI). This includes $53.8 million that will create a National Artificial Intelligence Centre (which will become a part of CSIRO’s Data61 digital research network). It also includes $24.7 million that will be invested into the Next Generation Artificial Intelligence Graduates Program over the next four years. This will improve the AI skills of university graduates.

A large portion of the AI budget is also going towards Australian businesses. Over four years, the strategy will put $33.7 million towards AI-based partnership initiatives between businesses and the government. The remaining $12 million will co-fund 36 grants given to organisations using AI to address local problems.

Digital Skills

As digital skills are a “key to productivity”, the strategy will support Australians in building their digital technology skills. Specifically, the government will help Australians by investing millions in initiatives like:

  • The Digital Skills Cadetship Trial, which gives students work-based learning for digital jobs. The government gave this initiative $10.7 million.

  • The Next Generation Emerging Technology Graduates program, which will fund 200 emerging technology scholarships with $22.6 million.

  • The Cyber Security Skills Partnership Innovation Fund, which was given $43.8 million to improve the professional skills of cybersecurity experts.

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Emerging Aviation Technology

The Digital Economy Plan also extends to aviation. The plan will fund Australia’s aviation industry with a $32.6 million investment in the Emerging Aviation Technology Partnerships program. The budget has also focused on drones, with the government pledging to create a Drone Rule Management System and a National Drone Detection Network.

Data and the Digital Economy

As data is key in creating a digitised Australia, the strategy will also spend heavily on Australia’s data. This spending will include:

  • Putting $111.3 million towards the Consumer Data Right rollout. The data rollout program started in 2019 in the banking sector. The new funds will help extend it into the energy and telecommunications sectors.

  • Investing $40.2 million into the Digital Atlas of Australia. The digital atlas is working towards creating a public data platform with over 90,000 datasets.

  • Earmarking $16.5 million for a pilot program that would make the government’s data assets discoverable.

The government will also develop an Australian Data Strategy to govern data management practices over the next few years.

SME Digitisation

Finally, the budget will fund the digitisation of small businesses through two initiatives. This includes $12.7 million towards the ‘Digital Solutions – Australian Small Business Advisory Services’ program. This program will give small businesses advice that improves their digital capabilities and skills.

The second initiative targets electronic invoicing (or ‘e-invoicing’). This $15.3 million initiative will help businesses use e-invoicing to improve their productivity and reduce administration costs.

How the Digital Economy Plan will Impact Australia’s Small Businesses

Over the next few years, the Digital Economy Plan will help Australian businesses digitise their operations, extending the work already started by businesses during COVID-19. In particular, the strategy will:

  • Improve internet connections for more rural and regional businesses

  • Help businesses improve their cyber safety

  • Create graduates with strong digital skills ready for the workforce

  • Help businesses use AI to solve problems

  • Aid businesses in protecting their data and developing data-protection protocols

  • Help businesses embrace digital solutions in daily work life

The digital plan will also help businesses embrace new cyber-secure technologies like online faxing that increase productivity. While online faxing has been around for over twenty years, it is gaining popularity worldwide as a cyber safe way to share confidential documents over the internet.

As Australian businesses become increasingly digital and security-conscious, more businesses will turn to online faxing services like eFax. eFax currently serves over 11 million people worldwide and helps people fax through their smartphone, tablet or computer. If you would like to try eFax in your business, you can do so through a 30-day free trial. The free trial includes a free fax number, full access to eFax’s features and up to 400 free faxes.

You can try eFax by signing up for a free trial here or by calling 1800 283 361.

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