Why COVID-19 is the perfect time to rebuild Australia as a digital leader

Why COVID-19 is the perfect time to rebuild Australia as a digital leader

Global instability has given Australia an opportunity, and plenty of reason to emerge from recession as a leader in digital.   

With COVID-19 causing chaos in the US and Europe, distrust increasing towards China and nativist tensions brewing globally, Australia has a ripe opportunity to attract the best and brightest in digital while securing supply chain sovereignty at home. 

Seizing the chance to strengthen digital innovation in Australia could fuel its recovery from recession and bolster a diversity of industries in decades to come.

Always in business you should be looking 10, 20, 100 years ahead where the world is going. Jobs in the future will be knowledge heavy with almost all industries shifting to have a digital component. So you might be thinking how can we help assist digital companies and innovation in Australia. 

Australia’s biggest drawing card internationally is its liveable cities – and digital jobs are footloose jobs.

If these individual workers can choose where they want to live then how well Australia is dealing with COVID-19 is something that runs a small argument in favor of us as a destination and an argument against the US, for example.

For the globally flexible worker that’s one of the biggest things we have to position ourselves for the top end of migrants.

There’s no reason why Google needs to sit in the Silicon Valley except for the reason that all the other firms sit there and that’s where the talent is. And Silicon Valley is not able to serve the whole world.

What Australia should learn from COVID-19

COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of supply chain sovereignty as well as the relative strength of Australia’s digital infrastructure, giving Australia all the more reason to foster digital innovation at home. 

Australia produces enough food for itself but at the digital end of the spectrum we all rely on lots of digital things like Facebook, Gmail, Google. In that space we heavily rely on Americans.

We’re welcoming Google here and Amazon but they’re not paying tax. That’s a global challenge going forward.

This situation illustrates that it’s absolutely crucial that you harvest talent here, that there is free training and networking opportunities and that we’re working closely with universities to ensure that young talent is coming up with relevant skills.

There’s questions like what kind of tax benefits do we give to young companies and if you lack connections to talk to finance folks and set up a company, how can we simplify this?

We’re probably not talking about setting up Facebooks or Googles but even if you’re opening a digital service that employs three or four people, that’s three or four more jobs that are in Australia.

What do some stakeholders say about Aussie digital innovation?

Sagar Sethi, a digital specialist who migrated to Australia from India to establish a digital media agency called Xugar, which now employs a dozen people, suggests the Australian government needs to invest more in digital education, pursue a targeted migration program, or both.

In releasing the Australian results of the IMD World Digital Competitiveness ranking in 2019, the Committee for Economic Development in Australia found the nation ranked 44 on digital/technological skills and employee training, and 53 on graduates in sciences.

“America is number one in digital technology competitiveness because they know it’s the future of employment” said Mr Sethi. 

He says he chose to migrate and establish my dream business in Australia because he values the liveability here, the strong social policies and multicultural ideals.

However, he thinks Australia could make a stronger case for digital workers and companies to establish themselves here, especially now with the chaos enveloping the US and Britain and the distrust of China. 

‘We have the chance to attract and foster digital talent here, or the business goes elsewhere.’

CEDA’s chief economist Joe Ball recently stated that Australia would need to achieve technological innovation across all industries in order to emerge from its current recession in a strong position globally. 

“A narrow conversation about what products Australia makes onshore is a dead-end, denying the tech driven reality of intense global competition,” he said.

“However, Australia also cannot have a conversation that sees technology and innovation as abstract concepts that can be dialled up through a policy statement.

Instead they must permeate every aspect of our economy – redefining the boundaries of traditional industry classifications and how we create value.”

Simon Kuestenmacher is a co-founder and director of research at Bernard Salt’s consultancy, The Demographics Group. He is also a columnist with The Australian newspaper.

Why COVID-19 is the perfect time to rebuild Australia as a digital leader