The tech sector, among others, is firmly in the spotlight after Treasurer Josh Frydenberg announced he was pouring $1.2 billion into crucial areas such as cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, and consumer data.
Though the money will be spread out across six years from 2021-22 onwards, the money goes some way in up-skilling Australians to create tech experts in fields that will be key to national security and the economy.
According to the Budget papers, here’s a breakdown of where the money is going, the jobs it will create, and where.
More on Federal Budget 2021:
Data security and management: $151.7 million
$61.5 million across four years to the Australian National Audit Office for rising costs of complex financial data, record management, and IT cyber security
$31.7 million across four years to improve the security of Australia’s mobile networks and to commercialise data security solutions;
$1.8 million across two years to design and deliver a National Data Security Action Plan;
$40.2 million across four years to improve Australia’s location-based data infrastructure and create a 3D ‘digital atlas’ of Australia;
$16.5 million across four years to identify government “data assets” and create a searchable data “catalogue”.
Cyber security: $127.6 million
Cyber attacks have already become a serious national concern, and the 2021 Budget offers several million into addressing the worker shortage that the cyber security sector is flagging.
$43.8 million across three years will go into the Cyber Security Skills Partnership Innovation Fund. This aims to train more and higher-quality cyber security professionals;
$42.4 million across two years to improve security for “critical for infrastructure assets” of national significance and to better respond to cyber attacks;
$22.6 million across six years that will go to creating 234 scholarships provided by the Next Generation Emerging Technologies Graduates Program in “emerging technologies areas”;
$18.8 million to pilot the delivery of Whole-of-Government cyber hubs.
Artificial intelligence: $124.2 million
$53.8 million across four years to set up a National AI Centre and four AI and Digital Capability Centres;
$33.7 million across four years to give businesses grants to collaborate with the Government in coming up with AI-based solutions to “national challenges”;
$24.7 million across six years to attract and train AI specialists by creating a Next Generation AI Graduates Program and offering scholarships;
$12 million across five years to offer grants that support business projects that builds AI capabilities in regional areas.
Consumer data: $111.3 million
$111.3 million across two years will go to implementing the Consumer Data Right in the banking sector, as well as rolling it out across the energy and telco sectors.
Aviation technology: $35.7 million
$32.6 million across two years to create the Emerging Aviation Technology Partnerships program to support emerging aviation tech;
$1.6 million across two years to create the New Drone Rule Management System to better manage drone regulations;
$1.5 million for the National Drone Detection Network to manage drone security risks.
Support for businesses: $28 million
$15.3 million to help businesses take up e-invoicing, and to roll this out across all levels of Government
$12.7 million to reach 17,000 businesses via the Australian Small Business Advisory Service Digital Solutions program
Digital skills: $13.9 million
The Budget outlines a clear focus on upskilling and training Aussies to become the tech professionals the country needs. This includes:
$10.7 million across three years to trial up to four Digital Skills Cadetship pilots;
$3.2 million for the Digital Technology Taskforce to continue their work in implementing the Digital Economy Strategy until 30 June 2022
Will this money be enough to create the tech workers we need?
Digital transformation consultant Cognizant ANZ CEO Jane Livesey said the Budget failed to genuinely address the skills shortage, especially in the areas of cloud engineering, data science and management, and front-end development.
“The demand for these skills is outstripping supply, and the salaries for such niche expertise has increased in excess of 30 per cent over the past six months,” she said, noting that the closed borders had made finding skilled talent much more difficult.
Pieter Danhieux, the co-founder and CEO of Secure Code Warrior, which trains coders to be more security-conscious, said he was disappointed that more money wasn’t allocated to cyber security.
“What we need is something similar to US President Joe Biden's recent multi-billion-dollar cybersecurity support plan, as well as appointment of key members of the cabinet to cybersecurity and cyber defence,” he said.
In fact, cybersecurity ought to have its own dedicated cabinet role, he said, adding that the issue of cyber security easily becomes ‘out of sight, out of mind’.
“In the wake of nation-state cyberattacks and unprecedented access to our sensitive information if a data breach is successful, this is a lax approach that maintains a status quo that has been ineffective to date.”
McAfee ANZ director of systems engineering Sahba Idelkhani said the Budget fell short of plugging the shortage in the cyber security workforce.
“The small pool of people allowed to apply for the proposed Next Generation Emerging Technologies Graduates Program isn’t nearly enough to solve today’s critical need for talent in the backdrop of a highly volatile threat environment accelerated by COVID-19,” Idelkhani said.
Online skills platform Pluralsight’s APAC managing director, Mike Featherstone, said there was a “significant gap” by way of a clear pathway to developing tech skills.
“One thing is for certain: your tech strategy is your business strategy—and you can’t have a winning tech strategy without a mature skills strategy,” he said.
Failure to spend more on digital skills will leave the nation vulnerable, he added. “While some investment has been made, much more will be required if Australia hopes to become a leading digital economy by 2030.”