Skills development, My Health Record, and GovPass were the big-ticket tech winners in this year’s federal budget which was otherwise light on tech spend.
In his first budget as Federal Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg splashed millions, forecasting a $7.1 billion surplus for Australia, declaring the budget is “back in the black and Australia is back on track”.
The establishment of a National Skills Commission to focus retraining in the VET sector scored $132.4 million over four years, while an initiative to upskill “at-risk” workers with digital skills was allocated $62.4 million.
According to ACS Australia’s Digital Pulse 2018, Australia will need at least 100,000 technology workers in the next four years to simply meet demand.
While half a billion dollars was allocated to skills, a large proportion was assigned to apprentice trades.
“Technology jobs are the jobs of the future,” said ACS President Yohan Ramasundara. “Many of the high paying jobs of the next decade are going to be technology jobs, and a large proportion of the funds allotted to skills have been targeted not at technology jobs, but at trade skills.
“Much more investment should be made to improve the technology skills of the Australian workforce.”
The big money
The government has thrown another $200 million at the much maligned My Health Record, which allows individuals to control their medical history and treatments.
A further $67.1 million was provided to continue the development of GovPass, a digital identity for Australians to access government services online. Last financial year, GovPass was awarded $92.4 million.
Cyber security to protect Australia’s 2019 Federal election and increase cyber monitoring was given a boost, however, the amount has been kept under wraps by the government citing “national security reasons”.
“The government’s commitment to the cyber uplift for federal government systems for the 2019 federal election is commendable,” said Ramasundara. “It has been clear that foreign actors including governments are now more than happy to interfere in elections, and the government should be doing everything it can to ensure that Australian elections remain safe and fair.”
Come on, women!
Addressing the shortage of women in STEM – science, technology, engineering and maths – the Australian government has budgeted $3.4 million over four years to encourage more women into STEM careers.
“It’s no secret that the technology industry has a significant gender imbalance,” said Ramasundara. “Females make up 28% of the ICT workforce, compared to 45% of the workforce as a whole. Addressing that imbalance is a key issue that we have needed to address in Australia for some time. However, $850k per year won’t go too far in narrowing the gap.”
“We also have to do more to keep our kids safe online and tackle cyber-bullying,” Frydenberg said in his budget speech, outlining a $10 million spend over four years to teach children how to be safe on the internet.
“In this budget, we are funding new practical training to give kids, parents and teachers the knowledge and skills necessary to keep our children safe online.”
Australia’s nascent space industry was awarded $19.5 million over four years to establish a Space Infrastructure Fund.