Budget confirms digital economy a priority but the ACS encourages more funding to address ICT skills

Sydney, May 9, 2017: The ACS – the professional association for Australia’s ICT sector – tonight welcomed the Federal Government’s commitment to the digital economy as outlined in its 2017-18 Budget. ACS President, Anthony Wong, said the 2017-18 Federal Budget has delivered good news for expediting Australia’s transition to a digital and knowledge economy. “We would see three key pillars to achieving an economy higher up the value chain and one which affords higher paying jobs; these being a strong banking and finance sector, a strong cyber security capability that delivers trust, and developing high-level STEM skills in the education system.” The economic contribution of the internet and digital-enabled economy is forecast to increase to $139 billion by 2020, representing 7.3% of overall GDP in Australia[1], with some estimating the potential of currently available digital technology to contribute between A$140 billion and A$250 billion to Australia’s GDP by 2025[2]. “We were pleased to see the investments in the Cyber Security Advisory Office, backing of our fintech sector, and the commitment to improving student outcomes,” said Mr Wong. The Government has committed to investing $10.7 million over four years to the Digital Transformation Agency to establish the Cyber Security Advisory Office (CSAO) intended to strengthen governance across government projects and cyber security assurance. “The ACS is supportive of the Government’s introduction of needs-based funding for Australian schools, as outlined in the Quality Schools[3] reforms package, which includes $242.3 billion in recurrent funding to schools over the next decade. We also welcome the new Gonski-led Review to Achieve Educational Excellence in Australian Schools to provide advice on how this funding should be used to improve student achievement and performance[4].” “However, at a time when the performance of Australian students in science and maths is declining[5], the ACS supports a stronger focus on building digital skills and digital literacy in Australian classrooms. This must be a critical economic and policy priority, especially when STEM is associated with 75 per cent of the fastest growing occupations, innovations and wage premiums[6].” As part of the organisation’s pre-Budget submission, the ACS’ recommendations to the Federal Government include a proposed grassroots National ICT Educators Program.

[1] ACS Australia’s Digital Pulse Report 2016, page 13.

[2] McKinsey Digital Australia: Seizing the opportunity from the Fourth Industrial Revolution, page 2.

[3] https://www.pm.gov.au/media/2017-05-02/true-needs-based-funding-australias-schools and https://www.education.gov.au/quality-schools

[4] https://www.pm.gov.au/media/2017-05-02/true-needs-based-funding-australias-schools

[5] Results from the 2015 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA)

[6] PwC’s “A smart Move: Future proofing Australia’s workforce by growing skills in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM)” The program is designed to boost the capacity of Australian school teachers implementing the Digital Technologies (DT) curriculum, with the aim of better engaging students in STEM and improving their performance. The ACS sees this as essential if we are to fill future skills gaps of nearly 67,000 ICT workers by 2020[1]. “Currently, 2.5 million Australians in non-ICT job roles require ICT skills[2]. As a longstanding advocate in this space, the ACS has actively raised concerns about the critical need to address Australia’s ICT skills shortages to meet future skills demand. This is alongside the need to boost ICT enrolments and completions where currently graduates represent only one per cent of the ICT workforce[3]. The ACS looks forward to working with the Government to place a high priority on achieving these outcomes,” said Mr Wong. -ENDS- Media Contact Sarah Jane Williams, Launch Group, 0409 362 675 sarahjane@launchgroup.com.au Louise Proctor, Launch Group, 0452 574 244 louise@launchgroup.com.au About the ACS The ACS is the professional association for Australia's Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector. Over 20,000 ACS members work in business, education, government and the community. The ACS exists to create the environment and provide the opportunities for members and partners to succeed. The ACS strives for ICT professionals to be recognised as drivers of innovation in our society, relevant across all sectors, and to promote the formulation of effective policies on ICT and related matters. Visit www.acs.org.au for more information

[1] ACS 2016 Australia’s Digital Pulse, page 22.

[2] ACS 2016 Australia’s Digital Pulse Report, page 4.

[3] ACS Australia’s Digital Pulse Report 2016, page 52.

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