How the Federal Budget will turbocharge Australia's digital economy

- By Collaborative Media & Publishing
Australia will be transformed into a leading digital economy over the next decade in a $1.2 billion government plan that has been welcomed by the tech sector.
The Federal Budget earlier this month contained significant spending to boost Australia’s capabilities in artificial intelligence (AI), unlock the value of data, and increase digital infrastructure and skills.
“The Digital Economy Strategy is about investing in the settings, infrastructure and incentives to grow Australia’s digital economy to ensure businesses across all sectors are able to lift productivity and be globally competitive,” the Budget states.
BPAY Group Chief Operating Officer, Hugh Frames, said the spending initiatives to support the tech sector “will play a major part in Australia’s economic recovery from the pandemic, and these initiatives will support the entire technology and start-up ecosystem”.
In particular, he noted the measures to enhance Australia’s AI capability.
These include a National AI Centre and four AI and Digital Capability Centres to drive and support small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to adopt transformative AI technologies, as well as $33.7 million in grants to businesses to work with the Government to develop AI-based solutions.
Lower tax rates for innovators
The government is also boosting the AI workforce by establishing the Next Generation AI Graduates Program to attract and train AI specialists through national scholarships.
“The timing of this initiative is particularly important as many companies have accelerated their digital transformation strategy as a result of COVID-19,” Frames said.
“BPAY Group’s own start-up, AI document intelligence company Sypht, is seeing increased demand for its products and is focused on gaining traction in the US, so this funding is a welcome boost to the industry,” he added.
The Budget also has a focus on unlocking the value of data, with $111.3 million in funding to continue implementing open banking as well as a corresponding consumer data right in other parts of the economy including the energy and telecommunications sectors.
The use of the Digital Identity system will be expanded in the Digital Economy Strategy.

The Government wants to ensure that by 2030 the significant majority of Australians over 18 are registered for myGovID or another trusted digital identity, and that businesses can verify the digital identity of customers and suppliers with absolute confidence.

“We’re pleased to see the government progress its plans to create a single digital ID for Australians that can be used across the wider economy, and we look forward to working with industry and government to ensure alignment and to accelerate adoption of digital identity,” said Frames.
FinTech Australia head Rebecca Schot-Guppy welcomed the Government’s patent box tax regime. This will encourage innovation in Australia by taxing corporate income derived from patents at a concessional effective corporate tax rate of 17% rather than the full rate of 30%.

The patent box will apply to income derived from Australian medical and biotechnology patents, and the Government will also consult on whether a patent box would be an effective way of supporting the clean energy sector.
“We would like to see this program rolled out to other sections of the technology industry sooner rather than later, as it encourages innovation and rewards success,” Schot-Guppy said.
Every business is now a digital business, says PM
Announcing the Digital Economy Strategy, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said one of Australia’s biggest challenges is how we respond to the digital transformation occurring in every sector and every facet of Australians’ lives.
“Every business in Australia is now a digital business,” said the Prime Minister, who is also Minister for the Digital Economy.
“The tradesman or woman who seeks work through AirTasker. The landscaper who finds most of their new business through search engine placement and social media. The farmer who keeps track of their herd with electronic tags or drones. The local Thai restaurant that sells through UberEats, MenuLog, Deliveroo, or any one of half a dozen different food apps. The gym where members book their classes through an app,” he added.
ACS, the professional association for Australia's technology sector, supported the Budget spending and said the information and communication technology (ICT) sector will be essential to achieving the Government’s aim of driving unemployment below 5%.
The ACS also backed the Budget’s $50 million investment in cyber security services in government, data centres and telecommunications networks, along with the new national network of AI Centres and the expansion of the cyber security innovation fund.

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