Digital technology continues to transform the Australian economy

A major new report from Google is a good thought starter for considering Australia’s progress in building a digital economy – and how far we still have to go.

Released late last month, Connected Continent II – 2015 looks into the impact of digital technology on the Australian economy. It provides a positive outlook for the digital economy story in Australia, and its findings resonate with previous work by Ai Group.

With the mining investment boom fading and global commodity prices in retreat, the report has come at an opportune time. It reinforces the need to find significant new drivers of growth – and the digital economy is one area that can further stimulate widespread growth across the broader economy.

We’re pleased that the report identifies the important role of business, as well as consumers and government, in the digital economy. It tells positive stories about the benefits Australian businesses and consumers have derived from businesses becoming more embedded in the digital economy – and these stories should resonate strongly with Ai Group members.

We also agree with the report’s recognition that broadband is an important enabler of the digital economy. Our 2013 survey of 170 businesses across Australia highlighted that greater attention needs to be paid to the delivery of high-speed broadband in our country.

Google’s report identifies areas in which government policies are essential to promoting the digital economy. One such area relates to how government and regulators can lead in this space, including in the delivery of government services.

One very positive initiative along these lines is the Federal Government’s recent launch of the Digital Transformation Office. Another is the establishment of a Bureau of Communications Research to provide expert advice on emerging issues in the digital economy and ways in which Government can lead in this area.

A joint review of ICT statistics by the ABS and Department of Communications is also underway, and we are taking part. This has the potential to identify opportunities for government and industry to take fuller advantage of the productivity and innovation benefits that flow from digital technology.

However, as Google’s report points out, there is more that can be done to improve the digital economy through government leadership, among other things.

See our recent analysis of World Economic Forum data and our 2015 CEO Survey report for further information on business-wide policy areas that can help stimulate the Australian economy, digital or otherwise.

How would you characterise the experience of your business in its engagement with the digital economy? Do you have a business plan for continuous improvement in this area? And how important do you consider the roll-out of high-speed broadband to be for your business moving forward? We’d love to hear your opinions below.

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Charles is Digital Capability and Policy Lead at Ai Group, concentrating principally on policy relating to technology and digital issues. He has worked in a broad range of industries, including energy, broadcasting and telecommunications. Previously, he advised on energy policy for the Australian Energy Market Commission, and was Assistant Director of Engineering for Free TV Australia.

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