Australia has long been driving a country wide push for open government data. With their data.gov.au portal- citizens are provided a central catalogue to discover over 7,209 public data sets.
The portal also provides hosting for tabular, spatial and relational data with hosted APIs and the option for agencies to link data and services hosted by other government sources.
One of the leaders advocating for open data throughout Australia is Pia Waugh…
OpenGov recently spoke to Pia Waugh, Director of Data Infrastructure and Government Engagement, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Australia, about her idea of Government as an API, the recent release of Australia’s Public Data Policy Statement, and her upcoming webinar on Public User Needs.
Shift towards Greater Consolidation of Government Data, Greater Influence across Australia
Before October of this year, Waugh was the Director for Gov 2.0 and Coordination, Technology and Procurement Division, at the Australian Department of Finance. While there, she led the team working with the open data initiative and data.gov.au.
Since then, the open data and data.gov.au- external site team from the Department of Finance merged with the Data Policy Branch (including spatial, National Map, ANZLIC – the Spatial Information Council) and the Digital Government Strategy team from the Department of Communications and the Arts, to create a new branch at the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.
Waugh’s recent assignment to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet allows for greater influence and reach across the Australian Government, although her open data initiative has always been well received.
“By merit of the good work that we do, we already constructed a fair bit of capabilities, influence, and support throughout the whole of government. With the new work program being consolidated, it helps our already good reputation with the organisations,” stated Waugh.
Her new role allows her to provide technical support, look at open data skills and capabilities across the whole of government, and survey data infrastructure of organisations- making sure it complies with government needs.
Government as an API: an idea to drive further digital transformation
As Director of Data Infrastructure and Government Engagement, Waugh is in the forefront of the Open Government Data push and an outspoken believer in ‘Government as an API’.
What does this mean? As Waugh describes in her blog:
Government as an API is about making Government one big conceptual API. Making the stuff that Government does discoverable programmatically, making the stuff that it does consumable programmatically, making Government the platform or a platform on which industry and citizens and indeed other Governments can actually innovate and value add.
APIs have the ability to talk to each other and automate some of the government processes to make service delivery more efficient. This is why Waugh’s idea is starting to take off and draw attention towards the work of data.gov.au.
“All backend systems, whether they are transaction services, content, or data, if all of those are API enabled, they make user centric services a lot more responsive and agile,” stated Waugh, “If you build a user centric service through an API today, then you can do another one quicker tomorrow and better adapt to augmented reality- or whatever the future will bring us.”
Waugh hopes that this idea of Government as an API will resonate with others, as its adoption has the potential to make government more mashable. This means that it would be easy to pull content together across organisations so users are presented with everything they need from the whole of government.
Currently, Waugh sees that there have been some good early steps in the space of open data. As for organisation systems, some organisations are just beginning to see the benefit of ‘Government as an API’.
“If you don’t publish your data programmatically, then you are not going to get the most value out of it,” stated Waugh, “There has been a major shift to publishing data in documents, publishing data as APIs. In the data space, there has been much progress. In the systems space, it is still early days- organisations are just beginning to understand the benefit of an API driven approach.”
Australia Government Releases Public Data Policy Statement
On Monday, the Australian Government released its Public Data Policy Statement- reinforcing the Government’s commitment to open data and data-driven innovation.
— Pia Waugh (@piawaugh) December 7, 2015
“The Government has had an open data policy for a while but this is the first time that we have a single Federal Government Open Data Policy,” Waugh told us, “This helps to make it more understandable, more consistent, and give much clearer instructions to government organisations about their obligations regarding data.”
The Public Data Policy Statement acts as a means to consolidate government policy on a whole-of-government scale.
The journey towards a more consolidated policy regarding open data required a lot of behind-the-scenes work. Waugh said that this required her team to understand data needs and how to better share data across government.
As a result, the Public Data Policy Statement is expected help improve policy regarding data, produce better outcomes, and boost service delivery. Since the Statement was delivered through the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, it is hoped to have greater influence on the approach to data utilisation across the Government.
“With our team working from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, we have the opportunity to put data at the centre of Government, not just data specialisation, but everything that we do,” Waugh said, “This is because data is crucial to government being responsive.”
Data.Gov.Au to hold a Public User Needs Webinar on Open Data
The team behind data.gov.au provides a range of technical, infrastructure, and moral support to organisations across the whole of government.
Through organisational outreach and support efforts, data.gov.au has come a long way from hosting 500 datasets, as it now hosts over 7,000 datasets.
In addition to providing data support and guidance, the data.gov.au team is driving people to engage with its platform and its vision for a data-driven government.
Next week, the team behind data.gov.au will be hosting a 2 hour Public User Needs Workshop at their Canberra office. The data.gov.au team is inviting all interested parties to attend the workshop on 16 December 2015, as part of a broader data.gov.au Forum.
The purpose of the workshop is to receive input from data users in the general public and industry that will help the team design the roadmap for data.gov.au in 2016.
Google Hangout will be used to stream the public user needs session so anyone can participate and contribute remotely.
Waugh expressed her excitement to host the workshop and looks forward to receiving feedback and input on the data.gov.au platform.
Anyone interested in attending or e-attending, may register at https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/datagovau-public-user-needs-workshop-tickets-19746665809
Bridging vast distances through technological innovation, the Aus4Innovation program stands as a testament to the collaboration between Australia and Vietnam. This partnership is harnessing the power of artificial intelligence (AI) to revolutionise various sectors, ranging from disaster response strategies to agricultural efficiency.
In the realm of disaster response and search and rescue, Aus4Innovation has played a pivotal role in facilitating the testing and scaling of AI technologies by Australian and Vietnamese innovators. One significant outcome of this collaboration is a research initiative between the University of Technology Sydney and Le Quy Don University in Vietnam.
Together, they are leveraging the latest advancements in digital transformation technologies, including Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and AI simulations, to develop a cutting-edge system for search and rescue training. This innovative approach allows rescue workers to engage in simulation training for diverse scenarios, minimising risks to both expensive equipment and, more importantly, lives. By practising in a safe environment, search and rescue workers can enhance their skills and mitigate potential tragic consequences during actual rescue efforts.
In the agricultural domain, the Aus4Innovation program has fostered a partnership between the University of Wollongong and a Vietnamese tech company. This collaboration has led to the creation of Smart Eye, an AI-driven system designed to monitor and assess the health of sugarcane.
Deployed across more than 25 thousand hectares in the Thanh Hoa province, Smart Eye integrates soil moisture sensors to provide farmers with crucial data on nutritional stress, water stress, and leaf diseases. Delivered through a user-friendly mobile app, this technology empowers farmers to make timely decisions to protect their crops and sustain productivity.
The successful adoption of Smart Eye by the largest buyer of sugarcane in Thanh Hoa, showcases the potential for customising and replicating this technology for other crops in Vietnam, spanning rice, fruits, vegetables, flowers, industrial crops, forestry, and aquaculture.
In the conservation sector, Aus4Innovation has contributed to transforming environmental management at Tram Chim National Park, one of Vietnam’s largest national parks. Challenges such as insufficient and irregular survey data, extreme weather conditions, and vast parklands were addressed by a collaboration between the University of Wollongong and Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology.
Leveraging AI, machine learning, and the Internet of Things (IoT), experts developed specialised tools for monitoring the park. These tools, including drones and monitoring stations, enable efficient data collection and analysis, offering insights into the park’s environment, health, water, soil, air quality, bird population, and early detection of fires. Park rangers and staff have been trained to operate these systems, enhancing their ability to make informed decisions for the park’s ecosystem.
The Aus4Innovation program, funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and co-funded and managed by CSIRO, aligns with Australia’s commitment to supporting and strengthening Vietnam’s innovation ecosystem.
As part of Australia’s AI Month, the program underscores the nation’s dedication to responsible AI creation and adoption. The CSIRO National AI Centre plays a crucial role in advancing Australia’s AI expertise and capabilities, fostering a collaborative and focused AI ecosystem for the benefit of all Australians. Through such initiatives, Australia aims to secure a competitive global edge in artificial intelligence.
The Aus4Innovation program stands at the forefront of transformative technological collaborations between Australia and Vietnam. Through a profound integration of cutting-edge technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and the Internet of Things, this partnership has yielded groundbreaking solutions across disaster response, agriculture, and environmental management. The success stories, from AI-driven search and rescue simulations to Smart Eye’s impact on sugarcane monitoring, underscore the potential of technology to address complex challenges and drive sustainable development.
As Australia spotlights its AI proficiency during AI Month, initiatives like the Aus4Innovation program exemplify the power of responsible and innovative technology adoption, setting the stage for a future where collaborative tech advancements foster resilience, efficiency, and positive change on a global scale.
The New South Wales (NSW) Government is working to address the anticipated shortage of 85,000 digital workers in the region by 2030. In a collaborative effort, government officials, leaders from the digital industry, and education and training providers are joining forces to bridge the looming digital skills gap. The Minister for Skills, TAFE, and Tertiary Education, Steve Whan, recently officiated the launch of the NSW Digital Skills and Workforce Compact at NSW Parliament House, marking a significant milestone in the initiative.
The collaboration involves 37 compact partners, comprising the highest echelons of industry representation. Together, these partners hold a considerable reach, influencing 1.7 million students and representing over 340,000 digital workers in NSW.
The scope of the compact is extensive, aiming to promote digital careers across the state, with a specific focus on encouraging traditionally underrepresented groups such as women, First Nations people, and individuals in regional and remote areas to pursue tech-related professions.
At its core, the compact seeks to transform the perception of digital careers, fostering diversity in the sector and creating welcoming and productive workspaces. Recognising the urgency of the skills shortage, the partnership is committed to developing and implementing new employment pathways, providing on-the-job training experiences for individuals aspiring to embark on a long-term career in the digital industry.
The ambitious goals of the NSW Digital Compact are outlined in a comprehensive set of milestones. Firstly, the compact aims to alter societal perceptions of tech careers, emphasising diversity and inclusivity within the sector. By collaborating with industry partners, the initiative plans to expand and enhance new pathway programs for tech roles, including traineeships and work experiences. Additionally, efforts will be made to extend the reach of mentoring and networking programs to engage a more diverse audience.
Recognising the importance of continuous learning and adaptation in the rapidly evolving tech landscape, the compact seeks to provide increased opportunities for the people of NSW to reskill or upskill in tech-related roles. This not only addresses the immediate skills shortage but also positions the workforce to meet the evolving demands of the digital industry.
A crucial component of the collaborative effort is the establishment of a Digital Education Forum. This platform, created in collaboration with universities, TAFE institutions, school curriculum providers, and industry experts, is dedicated to enhancing tech education and fostering stronger industry partnerships. The forum serves as a proactive measure to ensure that educational institutions are aligned with industry needs and that students are equipped with the skills required to thrive in the digital workforce.
The Minister Steve Whan underscores the significance of this landmark agreement, emphasising the commitment of the NSW Government to shape a digitally empowered future for the state. Beyond just bridging the skills gap, the NSW Digital Compact is laying the foundation for a resilient and inclusive digital workforce.
The Minister highlights that the compact represents a substantial opportunity for government, industry, and education leaders to work together in changing people’s perceptions of ‘tech’ and expanding the inclusivity of the sector.
The Chair of the NSW Skills Board and CEO of ANZ branch of the partnering tech firm stressed the research commissioned by the NSW Skills Board, projecting a shortfall of 85,000 digital workers by 2030. To address this gap, the compact partners aim to achieve 20% of new hires coming from alternative pathways by the same year. The Chair believes that the compact will play a pivotal role in providing a pipeline of diverse talent to fill high-paying, secure jobs that are being created in NSW’s rapidly growing digital sector.
The NSW Digital Compact Partners include the NSW Government, several major global companies, the Institute of Applied Technology Digital, TAFE NSW, Tech Council of Australia, and all NSW/ACT universities. This diverse coalition reflects a collective commitment to building a robust and inclusive digital workforce, ensuring that NSW remains at the forefront of digital innovation in the years to come.
The Western Australian government has unveiled a comprehensive set of measures aimed at reducing bureaucratic hurdles, alleviating work burdens, and fostering a conducive environment for educators to focus on teaching. The region’s Education Minister, Dr Tony Buti, spearheading this initiative, took into account the insights from two pivotal reports and explored the potential of AI tools to revamp policies and processes.
In the wake of an in-depth review into bureaucratic complexities earlier this year, Minister Buti carefully considered the outcomes of the Department of Education’s “Understanding and Reducing the Workload of Teachers and Leaders in Western Australian Public Schools” review and the State School Teachers’ Union’s “Facing the Facts” report. Both reports shed light on the escalating intricacies of teaching and the primary factors contributing to workloads for educators, school leaders, and institutions.
Embracing technology as a key driver for change, the government is contemplating the adoption of AI, drawing inspiration from successful trials in other Australian states. The objective is to modernise and enhance the efficiency of professional learning, lesson planning, marking, and assessment development. AI tools also hold promise in automating tasks such as excursion planning, meeting preparations, and general correspondence, thereby mitigating the burden on teachers.
Collaborating with the School Curriculum and Standards Authority, as well as the independent and Catholic sectors, the government aims to explore AI applications to streamline curriculum planning and elevate classroom teaching. The integration of AI is envisioned to usher in a new era of educational efficiency.
In consultation with unions, associations, principals, teachers, and administrative staff, the Department of Education has identified a range of strategies to immediately, in the short term, and in the long term, alleviate the workload for public school educators.
Among these strategies, a noteworthy allocation of AU$2.26 million is earmarked for a trial involving 16 Complex Behaviour Support Coordinators. These coordinators will collaborate with public school leaders to tailor educational programs for students with disabilities and learning challenges.
Furthermore, a pioneering pilot project, jointly funded by State and Federal Governments, seeks to digitise paper-based school forms, reducing red tape and providing a consistent, accessible, and efficient method for sharing information online. Each digital submission is anticipated to save 30 minutes of staff time compared to its paper-based counterpart. Additionally, efforts are underway to simplify the process related to the exclusion of public school students while enhancing support to schools.
As part of the broader effort to support schools, the ‘Connect and Respect’ program, outlining expectations for appropriate relationships with teachers, is set to undergo expansion. This expansion includes the creation of out-of-office templates, and establishing boundaries on when it is acceptable to contact staff after working hours. The overarching goal is to minimise misunderstandings and conflicts, fostering a healthier work-life balance for teaching staff.
The Education Minister expressed his commitment to reducing administrative tasks that divert teachers from their core mission of educating students. Acknowledging the pervasive nature of this challenge, the Minister emphasised the government’s determination to create optimal conditions for school staff to focus on their primary roles.
In his remarks, the Minister underscored the significance of these initiatives, emphasising their positive impact in ensuring that teachers can dedicate their time and energy to helping every student succeed. The unveiled measures represent a pivotal step toward realising the government’s vision of a streamlined, technology-enhanced educational landscape that prioritises the well-being of educators and, ultimately, the success of students.
Liming Zhu and Qinghua Lu, leaders in the study of responsible AI at CSIRO and Co-authors of Responsible AI: Best Practices for Creating Trustworthy AI Systems delve into the realm of responsible AI through their extensive work and research.
Artificial Intelligence (AI), currently a major focal point, is revolutionising almost all facets of life, presenting entirely novel methods and approaches. The latest trend, Generative AI, has taken the helm, crafting content from cover letters to campaign strategies and conjuring remarkable visuals from scratch.
Global regulators, leaders, researchers and the tech industry grapple with the substantial risks posed by AI. Ethical concerns loom large due to human biases, which, when embedded in AI training, can exacerbate discrimination. Mismanaged data without diverse representation can lead to real harm, evidenced by instances like biased facial recognition and unfair loan assessments. These underscore the need for thorough checks before deploying AI systems to prevent such harmful consequences.
The looming threat of AI-driven misinformation, including deepfakes and deceptive content, concerning for everyone, raising fears of identity impersonation online. The pivotal question remains: How do we harness AI’s potential for positive impact while effectively mitigating its capacity for harm?
Responsible AI involves the conscientious development and application of AI systems to benefit individuals, communities, and society while mitigating potential negative impacts, Liming Zhu and Qinghua Lu advocate.
These principles emphasise eight key areas for ethical AI practices. Firstly, AI should prioritise human, societal, and environmental well-being throughout its lifecycle, exemplified by its use in healthcare or environmental protection. Secondly, AI systems should uphold human-centred values, respecting rights and diversity. However, reconciling different user needs poses challenges. Ensuring fairness is crucial to prevent discrimination, highlighted by critiques of technologies like Amazon’s Facial Recognition.
Moreover, maintaining privacy protection, reliability, and safety is imperative. Instances like Clearview AI’s privacy breaches underscore the importance of safeguarding personal data and conducting pilot studies to prevent unforeseen harms, as witnessed with the chatbot Tay generating offensive content due to vulnerabilities.
Transparency and explainability in AI use are vital, requiring clear disclosure of AI limitations. Contestability enables people to challenge AI outcomes or usage, while accountability demands identification and responsibility from those involved in AI development and deployment. Upholding these principles can encourage ethical and responsible AI behaviour across industries, ensuring human oversight of AI systems.
Identifying problematic AI behaviour can be challenging, especially when AI algorithms drive high-stakes decisions impacting specific individuals. An alarming instance in the U.S. resulted in a longer prison sentence determined by an algorithm, showcasing the dangers of such applications. Qinghua highlighted the issue with “black box” AI systems, where users and affected parties lack insight into and means to challenge decisions made by these algorithms.
Liming emphasised the inherent complexity and autonomy of AI, making it difficult to ensure complete compliance with responsible AI principles before deployment. Therefore, user monitoring of AI becomes crucial. Users must be vigilant and report any violations or discrepancies to the service provider or authorities.
Holding AI service and product providers accountable is essential in shaping a future where AI operates ethically and responsibly. This call for vigilance and action from users is instrumental in creating a safer and more accountable AI landscape.
Australia is committed to the fair and responsible use of technology, especially artificial intelligence. During discussions held on the sidelines of the APEC Economic Leaders Meeting in San Francisco, the Australian Prime Minister unveiled the government’s commitment to responsibly harnessing generative artificial intelligence (AI) within the public sector.
The DTA-facilitated collaboration showcases the Australian Government’s proactive investment in preparing citizens for job landscape changes. Starting a six-month trial from January to June 2024, Australia leads globally in deploying advanced AI services. This initiative enables APS staff to innovate using generative AI, aiming to overhaul government services and meet evolving Australian needs.
A research initiative spearheaded by the University of Wollongong (UOW) has secured a substantial grant of AU$445,000 under the Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage Projects Scheme. The primary focus of this project is to enhance the security protocols for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), commonly known as drones, in the face of potential adversarial machine-learning attacks. The funding underscores the significance of safeguarding critical and emerging technologies, aligning with the strategic vision of the Australian Government.
Heading the project is Distinguished Professor Willy Susilo, an internationally recognised authority in the realms of cyber security and cryptography. Professor Susilo, expressing the overarching goal of the research, emphasised the deployment of innovative methodologies to fortify UAV systems against adversarial exploits targeting vulnerabilities within machine learning models.
Collaborating on this ambitious endeavour are distinguished researchers from the UOW Faculty of Engineering and Information Sciences. The team comprises Associate Professor Jun Yan, Professor Son Lam Phung, Dr Yannan Li, Associate Professor Yang-Wai (Casey) Chow, and Professor Jun Shen. Collectively, their expertise spans various domains essential to the comprehensive understanding and mitigation of cyber threats posed to UAVs.
Highlighting the broader implications of the project, Professor Susilo underscored the pivotal role UAV-related technologies play in contributing to Australia’s economic, environmental, and societal well-being. From facilitating logistics and environmental monitoring to revolutionising smart farming and disaster management, the potential benefits are vast. However, a significant hurdle lies in the vulnerability of machine learning models embedded in UAV systems to adversarial attacks, impeding their widespread adoption across industries.
The project’s core objective revolves around developing robust defences tailored to UAV systems, effectively shielding them from adversarial machine-learning attacks. The research team aims to scrutinise various attack vectors on UAVs and subsequently devise countermeasures to neutralise these threats. By doing so, they anticipate a substantial improvement in the security posture of UAV systems, thus fostering increased reliability in their application for transport and logistics services.
Professor Susilo emphasised that the enhanced security measures resulting from this research would play a pivotal role in bolstering the widespread adoption of UAVs, particularly in supporting both urban and regional communities. This is particularly pertinent given the multifaceted advantages UAVs offer, ranging from efficiency in logistics to rapid response capabilities in disaster management scenarios.
The significance of the project extends beyond academic realms, with Deloitte Access Economics projecting profound economic and employment impacts. The Australian UAV industry is expected to generate a substantial 5,500 new jobs annually, contributing significantly to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product with an estimated increase of AU$14.5 billion by 2040. Additionally, the research outcomes are anticipated to yield cost savings of AU$9.3 billion across various sectors.
The ARC Linkage Program, which serves as the backbone for this collaborative initiative, actively promotes partnerships between higher education institutions and other entities within the research and innovation ecosystem. Noteworthy partners in this venture include Sky Shine Innovation, Hover UAV, Charles Sturt University, and the University of Southern Queensland, collectively contributing to the multidimensional expertise required for the project’s success.
The UOW-led project represents a concerted effort to fortify the foundations of UAV technology by addressing critical vulnerabilities posed by adversarial machine-learning attacks. Beyond the academic realm, the outcomes of this research hold the promise of reshaping Australia’s technological landscape, ushering in an era of increased reliability, economic growth, and job creation within the burgeoning UAV industry.
Optical scientists have devised a novel method to significantly enhance the potency of fibre lasers while preserving their beam quality, positioning them as a pivotal defence technology against low-cost drones and other applications such as remote sensing.
The collaborative effort involved researchers from the University of South Australia (UniSA), the University of Adelaide (UoA), and Yale University, and their achievement is documented in the prestigious scientific journal Nature Communications.
Dr Linh Nguyen, a co-first author of the research and a researcher at UniSA’s Future Industries Institute, elucidates that the innovative approach demonstrated in the study can amplify the power in fibre lasers by three-to-nine times using multimode optical fibre, all the while maintaining beam quality crucial for focusing on distant targets. This technological breakthrough holds immense potential for various applications, with particular emphasis on its role in the defence industry, where high-power fibre lasers play a vital role.
Dr Nguyen underscores the significance of high-power fibre lasers in manufacturing and defence, particularly in the contemporary landscape marked by the widespread use of low-cost unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly known as drones, in modern battle scenarios. He notes that a swarm of inexpensive drones can swiftly deplete missile resources, leaving military assets and vehicles with diminished firing power for missions critical to combat.
In this context, high-power fibre lasers emerge as a strategic solution due to their low cost per shot and the rapidity of light action. This strategic advantage, termed as asymmetric advantage, leverages a cost-effective approach to overpower more expensive, high-tech systems through sheer numerical superiority.
The researcher emphasises the unique role of high-power fibre lasers in providing a viable long-term defence solution, aligning with the concept of asymmetric advantage. This capability not only safeguards against the challenges posed by cheap drones but also aligns with the objectives outlined in the Defence Strategic Review and AUKUS Pillar 2 objectives, offering a deterrent effect that is integral to defence strategies.
Dr Ori Henderson-Sapir, a project investigator at UoA’s Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensing, places this achievement in the broader context of Australia’s historical prowess in developing innovative fibre optics technologies. He sees this research as propelling Australia into a world-leading position for the next generation of high-power fibre lasers, with applications extending beyond defence to contribute to new scientific discoveries.
The researchers, having successfully demonstrated their technology in fibre lasers, are poised to share their findings at Photonics West, a premier international conference on photonics technology scheduled for early 2024. This platform will offer a global stage for presenting their advancements, fostering collaboration, and advancing the integration of high-power fibre lasers into diverse fields.
The collaborative efforts of researchers from UniSA, UoA, and Yale University have yielded a transformative breakthrough in the realm of optical science. Their innovative approach to increasing the power of fibre lasers, coupled with maintaining beam quality, opens new frontiers for applications ranging from defence against drones to scientific exploration. The implications of this research extend beyond national boundaries, positioning Australia as a frontrunner in the development of cutting-edge fibre optic technologies with global significance.
Australian researchers’ breakthrough in fibre laser technology, achieving three-to-nine times power increase without compromising beam quality, holds significant implications for national defence. With a focus on countering low-cost drones, this innovation aligns with the Defense Strategic Review and AUKUS Pillar 2 objectives. The development, a collaboration between the University of South Australia, the University of Adelaide, and Yale University, positions Australia as a global leader in cutting-edge defence technology.
The government’s emphasis on technological advancements, economic implications, and international collaboration underscores the broader impact of this breakthrough on national security and strategic innovation initiatives.
The Australian Prime Minister, during a meeting with the Chairman and CEO of an American multinational technology corporation in San Francisco on the margins of the APEC Economic Leaders Meeting, announced the government’s commitment to exploring the responsible application of generative artificial intelligence (AI) within the public service.
The collaboration facilitated through the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA), represents a strategic move to bolster the Australian Government’s dedication to investing in tools and capabilities that equip Australians for the evolving job landscape.
This initiative involves a six-month trial of a generative AI service, making Australia one of the pioneering governments globally to deploy such a service. Scheduled to run from January to June 2024, this trial allows Australian Public Service (APS) staff to explore novel ways to innovate and enhance productivity. The overarching goal is to deliver improved government services that align with the evolving needs and expectations of the Australian people.
Integral to this collaboration is the tech firm’s commitment to providing digital training, fostering the development of APS staff’s AI skills and literacy. This proactive approach recognises the importance of upskilling the workforce to effectively leverage the capabilities of generative AI. The government’s focus on investing in training aligns with its broader commitment to ensuring that Australians are well-prepared for the jobs and opportunities emerging in the rapidly evolving technological landscape.
Australia’s position as a global leader in adopting artificial intelligence for increased productivity, functionality, and fitness for purpose is solidified through this trial. By embracing generative AI, the government aims to revolutionise public service delivery, showcasing its commitment to harnessing cutting-edge technologies to benefit its citizens. The Digital Transformation Agency (DTA), which will oversee the trial, is set to evaluate the experiences, feedback, and opportunities arising from this initiative, providing valuable insights for future endeavours in the realm of AI adoption.
This announcement follows the establishment of the AI Taskforce, a collaborative effort led by the DTA and the Department of Industry, Science, and Resources. The trial will adhere to the AI Taskforce guidance, ensuring that the deployment of generative AI in the public service aligns with best practices and ethical considerations.
Furthermore, this development comes on the heels of the Prime Minister’s announcement of Microsoft’s substantial AU$5 billion investment in Australia. This investment encompasses the expansion of hyperscale cloud computing and AI infrastructure, the establishment of the Microsoft Data Centre Academy in partnership with TAFE NSW, and a commitment to train an additional 300,000 Australians through its global skills program. Additionally, collaboration with the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) on Microsoft-ASD Cyber Shield underscores the joint effort to enhance capabilities in identifying, preventing, and responding to cyber threats.
The government’s strategic partnership with the tech firm and its substantial investment underscores a shared vision of positioning Australia as a world-leading digital economy. The emphasis on skills development, infrastructure expansion, and collaboration on cybersecurity initiatives reflects a holistic approach to ensuring the nation is well-prepared for the challenges and opportunities presented by the digital era.
In parallel, the Australian Government remains committed to leadership in the safe, ethical, and responsible use of technology and data. The commitment extends to meeting community expectations regarding security, fairness, and privacy.
By fostering an innovative culture within the public service and upholding high standards in transparency, risk management, and governance of emerging technologies, the government aims to build trust and confidence in its approach to the responsible use of AI.
As part of its ongoing efforts, the DTA recently released a Request for Information on services and support for generative AI. This proactive step seeks information on generative AI solutions that could serve individual government organisations and contribute to the broader goals of enhancing government services through innovative technologies.