Business leaders have backed calls for an Australian AI sovereign capability to lead the nation out of a depressed economy.

First touted by ACS, a local AI capability could see Australia’s workforce lead an industry set to be worth $24 trillion globally by 2030.

Speaking on a Sky News panel lead by ACS CEO Andrew Johnson, John O’Mahony, partner at Deloitte Access Economics, said the first step would be to increase the number of people coming out of universities with tech qualifications.

“In the last few years, we simply haven't been producing enough of them,” he said.

“I remember when we had 500,000 technology workers, or we now have 750,000 of them. And it's not going to be long until we need a million technology workers in this country. That is enormous.

“And yet each year, out of our universities, we're graduating, maybe, you know, 5,000 to 6,000 IT graduates per year.

ACS President Dr Ian Oppermann argued AI will be everywhere and that a sovereign capability is critical.

“AI is potentially pervasive in every economy sector, every industry sector, every bit of infrastructure. It's hard to imagine having a road or a sewerage pipe in the future without having AI embedded into it,” Dr Oppermann said.

“Not having a sovereign capability is a bit like saying we don't need a sovereign software development capability. We don't need a sovereign banking capability -- we could outsource the whole thing.

“It is so fundamentally important to every aspect of every part of business.”

Also on the panel was Ed Husic MP, Deputy Chair of Standing Committee on Communications and the Arts, who said Australia needs to get its act together now.

“I’m sick of marketing terms roadmaps being thrown around as some sort of excuse for action,” he said.

“We've really got to set ourselves harder to targets backed up by serious dollars, and backed up by a uniform commitment across government, business and the community to see this be realised.”

Johnson said the panel’s discussion underscored how it’s critical for Australia to build its technology capabilities, particularly in AI.

“Now is the time to have the discussion about educating the nation’s workforce and developing a 21st Century skills base,” he said.