Peak tech body calls for fed budget funding boost for cybersec, AI & quantum

Australia needs to invest more in cybersecurity, artificial intelligence (AI) and quantum technology in order to achieve its goal of becoming one of the leading digital economies by 2030, according to the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) pre-budget statement and priorities for the 2023-24 Federal Budget.

Australia’s peak body for the digital innovation industry identified 13 key areas, including critical and emerging technologies, for the Federal Government to fund to help boost the country’s digital economy.

The Federal Government, it said, should provide leadership and implement AI adoption guidelines and governance rules for agencies, as well as establish an AI Register.

The AIIA expressed its disappointment that the $124 million allocated in the 2021-22 Budget to implement the Government’s AI Strategy – earmarked for industry and AI commercialisation projects – was yet to be spent.

“It remains a frustration to the sector that this funding has yet to reach industry.”

“Funding,” the AIIA added in its statement, is also “needed to deliver the priorities and ambitions presented in the Government’s National Quantum Strategy”.

Finally, the peak body argued, the future of the SME Tech Investment Boost, which is not yet law, must be made certain for industry by extended funding for at least another two years. This would provide a key incentive for SMEs to invest in cybersecurity solutions, training and greater adoption of cloud technology, it said.

At the same time, the AIIA released a list of key priorities, which includes investment in cybersecurity capability for SMEs, bold commercial approaches to procurements in critical and emerging technology such as quantum; digital capability programs for Australia’s near-neighbours; investments in the existing Future Made in Australia Office, the myGov platform and Digital Identity reforms; urgent visa processing resources; the establishment of a Council of Tech Regulators, Office of the National Digital Twin and Federal Digital Innovation Project Fund; and investing in industry and government adoption and principled use of AI.

AIIA’s chief executive, Simon Bush, said the Government has an opportunity to ensure that Australia reaches its dual goals of being a leading digital economy by 2030 and a leading digital government by 2025 through strategic investment in technology.

“While industry and research grants are welcomed, supporting Australia’s emerging and critical tech sector with direct government contracts would contribute to long-term capability in the sector. Government procurement is an important instrument that can support Australia’s sovereign tech capability and needs to be considered in any new funding mechanisms,” he added.

He noted that the Government’s National AI Strategy funding allocation, as announced in the 2021-22 Budget, was “still yet to reach industry”.

“The Government must work to deliver these funds so key projects can be implemented with a clear focus on commercialisation of AI. For Australia to be economically successful over the next decade and beyond, we must ensure that we have domestic AI capability.

“Australia has an opportunity to cement itself as a leading digital economy by investing in critical technologies.”