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Incoming Turnbull Govt must act on digital policy, says industry body

13 Jul 2016

As Australia ushers in the new federal government headed by Malcolm Turnbull, there have been industry calls for keeping digital policy and innovation at the forefront of the Coalition's mind. The Australian Computer Society (ACS) has led the call, with president Anthony Wong stating that digital will be the way of the future.

“Throughout the election campaign both parties made strong commitments to the ongoing support of digital development and digital literacy. Now, it is time for the incoming Government to make good on its promises to secure Australia’s digital future and progress our digital economy – forecast by Deloitte Access Economics in research commissioned by the ACS to grow from $70 billion in 2014 to $139 billion by 2020," Wong says.

ACS has put forwards its ACS 2016 Election Manifesto as a guideline for the Turnbull Governmnent, which covers five policy areas crucial to digital growth. The policy areas include digital skills and digital literacy, diversity, cyber security, National Broadband Network and policy framework.

The ACS believes that the digital skills shortage is the most important issue at the moment, citing research from Australia's Digital Pulse 2016 survey that showed graduates account for a mere 1% of the entire ICT workforce. In addition, it's not just specialist skills but digital literacy in general that needs to be improved.

“As we progress into the information age, digital literacy will become an essential skill and currency, if not already. Currently, 2.5 million Australians in non-ICT roles require digital literacy skills as part of their job – a figure likely to increase exponentially over the next five years. We need to equip the Australian workforce with the skills they need to compete in the changing job market. The Government will need to work increasingly collaboratively with business and educational institutions to achieve this,” Wong says.

A lack of diversity in terms of women and mature workforce is also setting Australia back, ACS says, and the Government needs to collaborate to address this issue 'as a matter of economic urgency'.

ACS also believes cyber security is a huge issue for the new Government, and calls for expedition of the Cyber Security Strategy.

“We currently have a very real undersupply of cyber security specialists. This is worrying when considering the threat of cyber security could cost Australians as much as $17 billion annually. ACS reiterates its recommendation that the Turnbull Government expedite the implementation of its Cyber Security Strategy, including its plans for workforce training as part of building a cyber smart nation,” Wong says.

The National Broadband Network will also be crucial, as fast, quality broadband is now a basic utility. To enable growth in schools and businesses, everyone must have the right tools. Australia is 60th place in global internet speeds and Wong says this must change.

Finally, the policy framework must adopt collaboration and openness to change. ACS believes that the government forms a 'high-level policy advisory group which operates outside the traditional government departments and agencies structure', drawn from employers, education, not-for-profits and professional bodies.

“We look forward to working with the re-elected government on the development of polices that will drive our digital economy and secure a brighter future for all Australians,” Wong concludes.

Read the ACS Manifesto here

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