The federal government is planning to spend nearly $1.2 billion on its Digital Economy Strategy and $130.4 million for improved regional connectivity as part of the upcoming 2021-22 Budget.
Scheduled to be released in its entirety from 11 May in the approaching Budget, the strategy is broadly set to offer investment towards emerging technologies, building digital skills, encouraging business investment opportunities and upgrading government service delivery.
Headlining the technology spend is expected to be over $500 million for government services enhancements, with $301.8 million to go towards My Health Record and the expansion of the digital identity system and $200.1 million to overhaul the online government services portal myGov.
Government agencies have previously looked into improving myGov, with Services Australia releasing a request for expressions of interest for new customer experience solutions for the portal in February this year and the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) hunting for systems integrators to deliver an updated version of myGov back in March 2020.
Improving capability in artificial intelligence (AI) is also a target area for the Digital Economy Strategy, with $124.1 million in initiatives bookmarked, which includes a National Artificial Intelligence Centre to be led by data science research and engineering institute CSIRO Data 61. According to the government, this will be supported by a network of AI and Digital Capability Centres, focusing on AI adoption nation-wide.
The roll out of the Consumer Data Right in banking, energy and telecommunications is scheduled to accelerate with an injection of $111.3 million, which has been designed to give consumers greater access to and control over their data.
Digital skills in and around the workplace is also flagged for increased investment, with a total of over $100 million set aside for digital skills support, which includes a pilot program for work place digital cadetships, investments in the 'cyber workforce', as well as scholarships for emerging technology graduates.
Cyber security is seeing furthered investment, with $50 million planned to go towards improving security for government, data centres and future telecommunications networks.
Emerging aviation technologies, like drones, are also expected to receive a sliver of the budget pie to the tune of $35.7 million, which includes grants for the usage of the tech for “priority needs” in regional Australia.
Small- to medium-sized businesses (SMB) will get a helping hand through a combined $28 million spend — $15.3 million to drive the business uptake of e-invoicing and $12.7 million to expand the Digital Solutions – Australian Small Business Advisory Service.
Additionally, video game developers will receive a Digital Games Tax Offset of 30 per cent, and changes are also slated for how businesses can claim depreciation of intangible assets like intellectual property and in-house software.
Meanwhile, improving connectivity in regional, rural and remote communities is also on the cards, consisting of funding of $24.6 million additional funding for shovel-ready projects in round one of the Regional Connectivity Program, which aims to serve as investment in local telecommunications infrastructure projects, such as improving mobile connectivity.
The rural connectivity spend is also set to include $105.8 million for the second round, with $45.6 million set aside for projects in northern Australia, a location that is a “vital strategic growth area”, according to regional communications Minister Mark Coulton.
“The pandemic has shown many Australians the value of the regions, both as economic powerhouses and as desirable destinations to live, work and raise a family,” he said.
“In order to ensure regional Australians can continue to do the heavy lifting the nation asks of them, the government recognises – and is investing in – the need for improved connectivity.”