A five-year productivity inquiry into Australia’s digital technologies and data has found that the country could fall behind in the race against technological change.
In its latest interim report, the Productivity Commission said that inadequate internet, lack of skills, low awareness and uncertainty about benefits, security concerns, cost and maintaining legacy systems were preventing Australian businesses from adopting new technologies.
The report said while Australia was doing well in terms of internet connections and data volumes, it was falling behind other countries on other advanced indicators.
“Australia’s internet speeds are relatively low, and business use of data-driven technologies, such as AI (artificial intelligence) and analytics, trails uptake in other countries,” the commission found.
Speed test data by Ookla revealed that Australia’s internet speed was not so competitive on the global scale, with the median mobile internet download speed ranking 18th in the world at 68.35 Mbps and the median fixed broadband download speed ranking 61st at 50.89 Mbps.
Among agriculture businesses, unsuitable internet speed and geographic location were the most commonly cited factors limiting further technology adoption.
In light of the issue, the report said more digital infrastructure, especially in regional and remote Australia, was needed to improve access to low-cost and reliable internet for local businesses and workers.
While the federal government was investing in regional digital infrastructure, the report found that there was a lack of transparency and accountability in current funding.
Technology Adoption Among Australian Businesses
The report found that local businesses were likely to adopt digital and data tools based on characteristics such as their size and industry, and the adoption rate also varied among sectors.
At present, over 60 percent of Australian businesses in knowledge services and information media and telecommunications have adopted cloud technology, which is expected to bring forth the next wave of change.
At the same time, it was revealed that industries with higher uptake of cloud technology were also faster in embracing artificial intelligence.
Separately, manufacturing and supply chain logistics businesses had higher adoption of radio frequency identification and electronic data interchange tools.
However, the report noted that many enterprises might not invest enough in cyber security as they underestimated the likelihood or costs of online threats.
“Digital technology and data will continue to shape global economic growth and social change in coming years,” Commissioner Stephen King said.
“Whether we fully realise the productivity dividend offered by these opportunities will depend on how effectively governments, businesses and individuals can recognise and safely harness these changes for Australia’s benefit.”