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Australian Government announces development of national Digital Economy Strategy

Image credit: Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, Australian Government (from cover of consultation document)

The Australian Government has announced that it will develop a national Digital Economy Strategy. The strategy will be developed in consultation with industry, thought-leaders, small and medium sized businesses, government, community as well as the broader private sector.

It will set out a roadmap for government, the private sector and the community to work together to: build on Australia’s competitive strengths and develop new ones; develop world-leading digital business capability for globally engaged, innovative, high-growth businesses of all sizes; drive a culture and mindset that supports lifelong learning, a global outlook, and helps us respond positively to change; and address the ‘digital divide’ in skills and confidence to help all Australians succeed in a digital economy.

The press release states that becoming a world leader in digital innovation could boost the Australian economy by AU$140 billion to AU$250 billion over the next eight years.

The government will launch the strategy in the first half of 2018, following an open conversation with governments, businesses and the community. The strategy will continue to evolve over time.

A consultation document has been issued and the government is seeking views on the objectives, opportunities and issues, till November 30, 2017.

The consultation paper says that there are many instances where the market is adjusting well to digital transformation and government intervention is not required. But it envisages a role for government in areas like connectivity for remote areas and managing security risks. Government can set an example by making it simpler, clearer and faster for people and businesses to deal with the public sector, and by better using technology and public data. Government can also drive industry modernisation as a major customer and investor.

The paper considers what communication services, and underlying data, platforms and protocols, might be needed to maximise the opportunities of the digital economy and how their development could be accelerated.

Standards development and regulation to enable digital entrepreneurship, innovation and trade, while mitigating the risks associated with digital disruption, is another area of focus in the consultation paper.

The paper also asks questions around cybersecurity, privacy and trust, such as:’ What roles should government, business and individuals play in protecting the community in a digital economy’ and ‘What are barriers for business, particularly small business, in adopting cyber security and privacy practices’.

The government is trying to find out the opportunities for SMEs to embrace digital innovation, the primary barriers for Australian businesses which holds them back in terms of benefiting from digital technologies. 

It asks: “What are the key new growth industries that Australia should be tapping into? In what technologies and sectors should Australian businesses take the lead, and where should we be a ‘fast follower’ of international trends?”

Bridging the digital divide and equipping Australians with the skills they need for the digital economy, and jobs of the future is another key area. 

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