Building Australia’s Digital Future in a Post-COVID World

June 16, 2020


Australia is the lucky country and we now have a unique window of opportunity to shape the future of generations who follow.

Australia truly is the lucky country. By any measure, Australian institutions and society have proven themselves to be the envy of the world. Leading into the COVID-19 pandemic there were concerns over our political leadership with six changes in Prime Ministers in a decade, the perceived demise of our institutions and our own perception of ourselves.

Today, Australia is leading the globe as part of the “first movers club” of nations dealing with and responding successfully to the COVID-19 pandemic. We have flattened the curve, have managed our economy well over the past decade so that governments could direct billions of dollars into the economy to support workers and businesses and we have one of the best health systems in the world. Our political and other institutions have led in this time of crisis, whereas many other countries have struggled.

With this initial success, it is imperative that we as a nation capitalise on this momentum and now focus on establishing the foundations for a new generation of economic growth . The opportunities the pandemic has presented for fast action and leadership are significant, but the opportunity has never been greater to get it right. It is in this context – both in the short and long term – that the AIIA submits this white paper as a contribution to the national debates now occurring within all levels of Federal, State and Territory Government.

Our future economic prosperity centres on our emerging from the pandemic successfully and in a way that responds to the opportunities and weaknesses that have prevailed themselves through this period. This means parts of our economy and workforce should transition to increase sovereign capabilities, seek resilience in global and local supply chains and digitise our economy.

The COVID-19 pandemic has driven innovation and overnight changes in how government and businesses operate – leveraging the power of modern digital technologies.

The new normal sees digital transformation accelerate, further opening Australian businesses up to global competition, but equally providing opportunities. Government will have a critical role in enabling the future, not just through investment, but also lead through new regulation, policy and legislation.

Recent events have highlighted the need to compliment the existing IT ecosystem, which includes a strong and valuable multi-national presence, with additional sovereign capabilities in the digital supply chain. Australia must have the skills and innovation ecosystem to support a globally competitive economy as this step change into digital transformation occurs. Sovereign capability includes the critical large investments that multi-national corporations make in Australia and the corresponding IP transfer and significant local employments that comes with these investments. Investments into Australia need to be fostered and encouraged to secure both local capability and economic growth along with measures to support domestic and SME growth; the two are symbiotic.

Successive Australian governments have invested heavily in their ICT capability through both large scale transformation projects and through more agile citizen focused digital projects. These collective investments have proved themselves during the pandemic and enabled the Federal Government to quickly get the cashflow boost to businesses and assist in wages through the JobKeeper scheme as well as assist the unemployed through the Jobseeker payment. The ATO and Centrelink IT payment systems allowed for this rapid policy response which other countries have not been able to match. Continued digital government investment in IT capability and payments systems should be seen as nation building infrastructure that aid rapid policy design and be responsive to crises.

Those countries, organisations and people that recognise the capability of digital technology on how they can shape and organise themselves will be those that thrive in the 21st Century and beyond. We have a once in lifetime opportunity for major reform and restructure of our economy and society. The AIIA White Paper will seek to give recommendations for governments to consider and adopt.

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COVID-19, digital future, Post-COVID World, Technology infrastructure