Data science and artificial intelligence (AI) represent a significant economic opportunity for the Australian economy, according to a new report released by Innovation and Science Australia (ISA).
ISA was tasked by the federal government with developing a strategic plan for the Australian innovation, science and research system out to 2030.
Australia 2030: Prosperity Through Innovation, released today, argues that the emergence “cyber–physical systems” including the Internet of Things are a strategic opportunity for Australia.
However, the document says, “there is a risk Australia will be unable to scale its capability rapidly enough to meet the needs of a transforming economy.”
“Specifcally, we must ensure we nurture the skilled workforce and high fixed-cost research and knowledge infrastructure required for Australia to be a leader in the next wave of the internet revolution based on cyber–physical systems,” it states.
ISA recommends that the government’s Digital Economy Strategy, which is due to be released this year, should position Australia as a “a leading nation in the research, development and exploitation of AI and machine learning”.
The report also raises concerns about the potential negative impact on competition from concentrated control of data. It recommends that the government should establish protocols, including consumer data rights, “for maintaining healthy levels of competition in knowledge-intensive industry sectors.”
The government announced in November that it would introduce legislation to create a new Consumer Data Right, which will allow individuals to access data relating to their banking, energy, phone and Internet usage.
The government should also improve the provision and use of open government data, including developing better mechanisms for feedback to ensure that data that is published is “maximally useful,” ISA recommended.
Another recommendation is increasing the use of innovative procurement strategies by the federal government. One initiative proposed is a “government as first customer” program that would be trialled at two major departments and be designed for start-ups and other high-growth businesses.
In order to achieve boost innovation in government service delivery the federal public sector “should be designed to work across portfolios and its processes designed to exploit digital technology (rather than adding digital technology to legacy organisational structures and processes),” the report states.
The Australian Public Service should “aim for transformative, not iterative, reform to deliver in a new digital economy”.
Increasing the use of digital channels to interact with citizens could cut departmental expenditure by up to 12 per cent by 2026, the report says.
The government’s Digital Transformation Agency should “explore opportunities to achieve half of the projected 12 per cent of savings from digitising service delivery by 2022 and the balance by 2026, while simultaneously improving citizen satisfaction with government services”.
The DTA should also be given the resources to benchmark the effectiveness of the use of digital service technologies and the improvement of service delivery, and set a target for citizen satisfaction.