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Australian Government Unveils New AI Action Plan

The Australian Government has released the Artificial Intelligence (AI) Action Plan in a bid to accelerate the development and adoption of AI technologies.

The Minister for Industry, Science and Technology stated that AI could contribute more than $20 trillion to the global economy by 2030; the AI Action Plan will help Australia leverage opportunities for AI to further strengthen the economy and improve the quality of life of all Australians, while ensuring that the development and adoption of AI is guided by appropriate safeguards, privacy and ethical considerations.

The Action Plan is backed by $124.1 million in funding announced in the May 2021 Budget and sets out four key focus areas for the government that will help to position Australia as a global leader in AI.

Focus one: Developing and adopting AI to transform Australian businesses — support to help businesses develop and adopt AI technologies to create jobs and increase their productivity and competitiveness.

Focus two: Creating an environment to grow and attract the world’s best AI talent — support to ensure our businesses have access to talent and expertise.

Focus three: Using cutting-edge AI technologies to solve Australia’s national challenges — support to harness Australia’s AI research capabilities to solve national challenges, and ensure all Australians have an opportunity to benefit from AI.

Focus four: Making Australia a global leader in responsible and inclusive AI — support to ensure AI is inclusive and technologies are built to reflect Australian values.

“We are already seeing so many benefits of AI in our everyday lives, from supercharging our economic recovery from the pandemic and unlocking new jobs, to protecting our environment, improving health outcomes and making our cities and homes smarter,” Minister Porter said.

The Action Plan is also supported by a whole-of-government agenda that sets the right foundations to support the growth of Australia’s digital economy and forms part of our Digital Economy Strategy.

Under the Plan, the government is investing $53.8 million to create a National Artificial Intelligence Centre to coordinate the nation’s AI expertise and capabilities and foster greater collaboration between industry and research institutions.

Additionally, the government will invest $24.7 million in the skills of the future by establishing the Next Generation AI Graduates Program to attract and train home-grown, job-ready AI specialists.

The government will also provide $33.7 million to support Australian businesses to partner with the government on pilot projects for AI-based solutions to national challenges. A further $12 million will be used to promote AI opportunities in regional areas by co-funding up to 36 competitive grants to develop AI solutions that address local or regional challenges.

Another article notes that the release of the Action Plan follows hot on the heels of the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Human Rights and Technology Final Report (the AHRC Report), which set out a comprehensive analysis of the current landscape and proposed a roadmap for Australia to seize the opportunities of AI and address the potential threats that it poses to human rights.

The Action Plan also reiterates the government’s commitment to consider the AHRC Report. What these recent developments make clear is that the promise (and potential peril) of AI is no longer theoretical, and it is well and truly time to take active steps to harness it.

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