Australia will need an additional 81,000 new ICT professionals by 2020 to fuel our booming digital economy.

The annual snapshot of the digital economy, ACS’s Australia’s Digital Pulse, showed that the “digital boom” has contributed a 6.6% increase to Australia’s GDP over the past decade as growth of the digitally-enabled economy is set to continue.

While digital technologies have the capability to boost the economy, it is vital Australia has the skilled workforce to operate these technologies.

“Technology skills are fast becoming the engine room of the Australian economy,” said ACS President, Anthony Wong.

“To fast-track our nation’s digital transformation, and ensure the ICT skills base is there to meet demand, we need a clear strategy and dedicated investment focus in this area.”

The report found technological progress is a fundamental driver of productivity growth and increased living standards in Australia.

“By enhancing productivity, improving connectivity and driving innovation across the economy, they (digital technologies) can play a critical role in the business world and the broader economic landscape.”

$139b by 2020

The report revealed that contribution of the digitally-enabled economy is on track to meet the forecasted target of $139b by 2020, which will equate to 7% of GDP.

It predicts that technologies such as cloud platforms, data analytics, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things will play a key role in creating this projected economic growth.

However, 90% ($123b) of this economic contribution is expected to come from the use of internet and digital technologies outside of the information, media and telecommunication (IMT) industry.

These figures come as economic contribution of digital technologies outside the IMT industry saw 10.4% growth p.a. since 2014, compared to 2.4% growth within the IMT industry.

“This captures the growing application of technology in other sectors throughout the economy that may not have been viewed as heavy users of digital technology – such as in the agriculture, manufacturing and health industries,” stated the report.

Trade in ICT

With digital technologies set to boost the local economy, global trade in ICT also continues to grow, with Australia’s ICT services exports increasing by 12% to $2.8b in 2015-16.

Alongside this, the ICT input share of Australia’s goods trade increased from 4% in 2013 to 7% in 2016, reflecting global investment in developing and implementing ICT, and a domestic increase in uptake of new digital technologies.

“Trade in ICT services has increased by around 2.5 times over the past decade, primarily concentrated in computer services for both inflows and outflows, within which hardware and software consultancy services represent the largest share.

“Australian businesses that operate in the ICT sector have access to a highly skilled workforce and comparatively low development costs if they wish to specialise in exporting high-value-add ICT services,” said the report.

Australia's Digital Pulse is produced for ACS by Deloitte Access Economics.