App developer numbers grow 20.35% between 2017 - 2019, up from 117,000 to 136,000 on the back of broader increases in technology professionals.
Government policy and concentration in capital cities are a key source of growth, but more could be done.
Exports of computer and information services grew 30% in 2018.
Australia’s burgeoning tech sector is continuing to grow, with almost 20,000 new app developers hitting the market between March 2017 and January 2019, a new report says.
New South Wales is leading the charge with 68,000 developers, while Victoria follows behind in second place with 38,000 developers, according to the Australian App Economy 2019 update.
In Queensland, app developer roles are going strong with 15,000 roles in 2019. This is followed by 3,000 positions in West Australia, 6,000 in the the ACT, 3,000 in South Australia and just 1,000 in Tasmania.
Report authors Dr Michael Mandel and Elliot Long found the growth of app development businesses was an important revenue-generating opportunity. "Australian apps have become an export of the digital economy, utilised by millions of users around the world," they said in the report.
Co-founder of OzRunways, Rowan Wilson, told Business Insider Australia his app development business was killing it due to a major move into South America.
"They’ve got a huge population and they’re underrepresented," he said. "They’ve got 3 times the pilots we have in Australia but it's a bit unloved."
Wilson said that the increase in professionalism is changing the face of the app development industry and the number of positions needed to create apps.
"It’s really hard to bust into the app store, it needs to be really polished and professional and stand out with quality and professionalism, maybe that’s driving growth," he said. "The transition has gone from more hobbyist to quite professional."
New South Wales: App developer heartland
The Australian App Economy report also shows an increasing concentration of app developers in Australia, with the number of developers divided by the total number of jobs sitting at 1.1 per cent. That's the same rate as the United States. While, New South Wales leads Australia in the app intensity rate at 1.7 percent.
Robert Wood, professor and director of the Futures Academy at University of Technology Sydney (UTS), told Business Insider Australia that New South Wales had become the heart of Australia's tech industry thanks to favourable business conditions and collaborations between education institutions and business.
"There’s a lot of investment that's going on in creating opportunities to explore and engage in startups,” he said. "What is needed in Melbourne is a drop-in hub where venture capitalists can meet with young entrepreneurs to coach and support them."
He said Sydney’s transient professional workforce had proven very effective in bringing talent into the city, with people moving from around Australia and the world into the harbour capital.
"It’s got a much higher turnover of professions, people coming and going," he said.
He said restrictions on international students work rights had actually resulted in many starting their own app development companies.
"Immigrants who don’t have the same level of access to the economy go out and start businesses," he said. "All of those people that I've spoken to are foreign students who've graduated in software engineering who can’t get jobs in Australia because Australian firms can’t hire them."
Exports growing 30 per cent
The report also found exports of computer and information services from Australia had risen 30 per cent in 2018.
OzRunways’ Rowan Wilson said his business had previously grown at almost 30 per cent a year, but was approaching market saturation in Australia.
"As we grow, we hire new people to soak up the extra revenue and aim to grow the company," he said. "Once you tap out the market and you’ve got everyone, you need to look for new regions."