Canberra throws another AU$253m at digital economy initiatives in MYEFO

In delivering his mid-year budget update, Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has underscored the federal government’s commitment to growing the country’s digital economy as part of plans to help the country recover from what he described as “the greatest economic shock since the Great Depression”.

In the 2021-22 Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) [PDF], Treasury detailed that the federal government would part with an additional AU$252.5 million over four years to implement further initiatives under the digital economy strategy.

The total amount will be split up across several projects, with the biggest share of AU$161 million to be used for the digital identity system; AU$27 million to the Office of the National Data Commissioner to improve the sharing and promote greater use of public sector data; and nearly AU$3 million for the Australian Bureau of Statistics to scope enhancements to the website to improve public access to government data.

AU$111 million will be used to support the commercialisation, adoption, and use of quantum technology, which includes AU$70 million for the quantum commercialisation hub that was announced recently by the federal government under its new Blueprint for Critical Technologies [PDF].

A further AU$22.6 million will be put towards round two of the 5G innovation initiative to support private sector investment in 5G testbeds and trials, while AU$800,000 over two years will be used to identify interventions to meet Australia’s digital skills and inclusions needs in consultation with industry, education, and training sectors.

In response to recommendations from the inquiry into future directions for the consumer data right, the government said it would also fund AU$1.8 million over two years to make Victorian energy reference data available through the CDR and provide a AU$6 million concessional loan to the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) in 2021-22 to enable AEMO to build the necessary IT system to share data through the CDR regime.

“The Digital Economy Strategy provides the foundations to grow the digital economy and focuses investment on the settings, infrastructure, and incentives to ensure businesses are able to lift productivity and be globally competitive,” the MYEFO stated.

The Digital Transformation Agency (DTA), meanwhile, will receive an additional AU$59 million over four years to continue to provide enhanced digital and IT oversight and advice.

Read also: There are 84 high-cost IT projects underway by the Australian government

Elsewhere, the Australian Space Agency will be handed an additional AU$23 million over five years, as well as AU$2 million per annum ongoing to support the growth of the local space sector, including for the creation of Australia’s Mars rover.

Other winners of MYEFO include the National Archives of Australia, which will get a AU$68 million bump in its kitty over four years to preserve at-risk records, provide additional staffing and capability to improve digitisation on demand services, and invest in cybersecurity and future digital enhancements.

Separately, the National Collecting Institutions will be provided AU$50.5 million over four years, with which AU$8.5 million over two years will be used to support the National Library of Australia’s digital information resource, Trove.

The federal government also announced that it would expand its digital games tax offset from 1 July 2022 to include ongoing development work, known as “live ops”, on digital games following their public release. An extra AU$19.6 million will be used to back this expansion.

When it comes to aged care, a further AU$154 million will be forked out for two years to replace the aged care IT system and begin work on an IT system to support a new in-home care program.

The MYEFO also detailed that Treasury would receive an additional AU$23.5 million that will partly be used to implement government reforms in relation to the payments system and crypto assets.

On Thursday, the NSW government also released its 2021-22 half-year review, in which it indicated there would be new investments allocated from the Digital Restart Fund.

These include AU$187 million over four years to create a whole-of-government ERP system for the six “clusters” Regional NSW, Stronger Communities, Premier and Cabinet, Treasury, Customer Service and Planning, and Industry and Environment; AU$122 million over three years to further modernise the licencing and compliance program; AU$32.5 million over three years to support the Department of Communities and Justice cybersecurity project; and another AU$23.5 million over three years to deliver the NSW police cybersecurity transformation program.

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