Ministerial collective to accelerate post-Covid digital economy growth

The Federal Government had established a high-powered Digital Economy and Technology Senior Officials Group to ease Australia's path towards post-Covid-19 recovery and boost growth within the digital economy.
 

The 11-member ministerial working group held its first virtual meeting this month, with representation from state and territory ministers, as well as innovation, science, digital, and Covid-19 advisers to Government.

The meeting was convened by the Federal Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, Karen Andrews.

In attendance were NSW’s Minister for Customer Service, Victoria Dominello, South Australia’s Premier and Minister for Innovation and Skills, David Pioni, Victoria’s Minister for Jobs, Innovation, and Trade Martin Pakula, and Kate Jones, Queensland’s Minister for State Development, Tourism and Innovation.

David Thodey AO, Deputy Chair of the National Covid-19 Coordination Commission also attended, together with ministerial representation from Western Australia, Tasmania, Northern Territory, and the ACT.*

The ministers will meet three times each year to track the growth of Australia’s digital economy and technology ecosystem, and will provide regular reporting on its work, a Government communique states.

Senior government officials and policy advisers are now being tasked by relevant ministers to progress the post-Covid-19 recovery and further promote a connected digital economy, the communique adds.


Pathways to digital success

The communique did not specify policy details, however, it did reveal moves underway to complete an 'Artificial Intelligence and Autonomous Systems Capability Map', which will highlight areas of strength and expertise for further digital collaboration.

The group hopes to promote Australia as a prime location for research and development, as well as facilitating the commercialisation of technology for government and business. These efforts will be augmented by efforts to slash red tape, with the group tasked with identifying technology-led deregulation projects to support digital economic growth whilst also reducing the compliance burden on business.

Officials will also collaborate on programs to promote pathways for digital and cybersecurity jobs, as well as strategies to boost digital inclusion.

“Ministers agreed that Covid-19 has highlighted the importance of digital inclusion in Australia,” the communique said, with senior officials' expected to "work together to identify a collaborative project on addressing the digital divide.”

In an earlier industry address, Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews acknowledged the enormous contribution of tech industries to Australia's economy.

"Tech contributes $122 billion to our economy and has the potential to generate an additional $50 billion per year. It is Australia’s sixth-largest sector, and employs over 720,000 Australians," she said.


Savings from digital tools

Earlier research has shown that using digital tools can save small businesses up to 10 hours per week and boost revenues by 27 per cent, the communique said.

Collectively, this amounts to 22 million hours saved per week and an additional $385 billion per year in revenue across all Australian small businesses.

“Ministers agreed that Australia’s [Covid-19] recovery and future economy relies on our collective ability to capture and sustain this step change.”

Among the reforms, technology policies across the Commonwealth, state, and territory governments will be examined in detail, together with delivering a nationally consistent approach to embracing digital platforms.

“The senior officials will map the digital economy policies and business support services needed to accelerate the digitisation and resilience of businesses in response to Covid-19,” the communique said.
 

*Roll-call of ministers

The full list of ministerial attendees at May meeting was:

  • NSW’s Minister for Customer Service, Victor Dominello
  • Victoria’s Minister for Jobs, Innovation and Trade Martin Pakula 
  • Queensland’s Minister for State Development, Tourism and Innovation, Kate Jones.
  • Western Australia’s Minister for Innovation and ICT, & Science, Dave J.Kelly
  • South Australian Premier and Minister for Innovation and Skills, David Pioni.
  • Tasmania’s Minister for Science and Technology, Michael Ferguson 
  • Northern Territory’s Minister for Corporate and Information Services, Lauren Moss.
  • Bettina Konti, the Australian Capital Territory’s Chief Digital Officer represented Andrew Barr MLA, Chief Minister of the ACT
  • Gabrielle Upton MP, Parliamentary Secretary to the Premier of New South Wales
  • David Thodey AO, Deputy Chairman of the National Covid-19 Coordination Commission
  • Andrew Stevens, Chairman of Innovation and Science Australia