Australian industry and society need to recalibrate and become leaders and fast followers in the emergence and development of digital futures, according to a paper by the Australian Academy of technology and Engineering.
The industry association argued in the paper that productivity and competitiveness rely on an innovative industry sector that embraces research, technological innovation, and local and international collaboration.
The paper also cautioned that ICT has strongly impacted culture and social behaviour.
“People are increasingly moving towards living part of their lives in the digital world, including socialising, learning, conducting financial transactions, and storing and sharing personal data. Emerging technologies will see this evolution continue with a deepening of human-machine partnerships and relinquishing of tasks to autonomous systems.”

Researchers said that today’s digital technologies, including the Internet, fixed and mobile broadband, and cloud services have a significant societal and economic impact within Australia. They also act as the basis of a newly emerging set of foundational technologies such as the Internet of Things, big data, machine learning and autonomous systems. These emerging technologies will disrupt every aspect of the economy including all industry sectors.

Information and communications technology (ICT) is arguably the key driver of productivity growth and innovation in the 21st century, they said.

“The uptake and effective utilisation of ICT services has facilitated innovation across an increasingly diverse range of areas, such as advanced environmental management solutions, new diagnostic and preventative health techniques, and methods to detect, respond to and recover from natural disasters and emergency situations.”

The paper said the country’s manufacturing, production and services sectors will increasingly be enabled by access to broadband, both fixed and mobile, as well as low power network technologies for the Internet of Things (IoT).

This can facilitate the widespread adoption of digitally enabled technologies such as 3D printing, nanoscale fabrication, machine learning and automation. National capabilities in information technologies and digital engineering will underpin growth in all Australian industry sectors, including health, agriculture, finance, mining, education and other services sectors.

According to the authors, the global appetite for digital technologies and the rate of uptake is a significant opportunity to:

  • Establish new commercial enterprises and grow existing ones in digital technology supply and digital service provision.
  • Improve the efficiency and effectiveness of existing industries. The digital innovation environment is dynamic and complex, and time-to-market is typically very short.

“Strong collaboration between researchers and industry is key to achieving the agility to successfully seize this opportunity, particularly given the challenges of digital disruption to industries that have significantly invested in traditional methods.”

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