Taking Australia’s digital pulse

| December 15, 2020

The sixth edition of Australia’s Digital Pulse by Deloitte Access Economics highlights the significant role information and communications technology (ICT) plays in almost everything we do.

ICT underpins how we work, communicate and spend our leisure time. Behind this technology infrastructure is people and their talent. Australia had over three quarters of a million technology workers in 2019 – this includes not only workers in ‘traditional’ ICT industries such as telecommunications services or computer system design but also workers in a range of other sectors such as finance and insurance and education and training.

Chart 1: Technology workers by industry 2019

Chart-1

Source: ABS customised report (2020)

The technology workforce has been growing at a faster rate than other parts of the economy. The number of technology workers increased by 6.8% between 2018 and 2019 — 1.5 times the growth in the number of professional occupations over the same period.

While technology workforce has been affected by the economic consequences of COVID-19, the crisis has also highlighted the importance of digital tools in keeping the economy going. Nearly half (46%) of Australia’s workforce was working from home in April and there was a 67% increase in business hour traffic on the NBN from pre COVID levels.

Existing system weaknesses and digital pain points have gone from being seen as relatively minor issues to major strategic flaws. To address these, businesses are increasingly focused on further investment in digital capabilities and infrastructure to enable future growth.

Due to the increasingly reliance on digital in the business environment, the technology workforce is forecast to grow at 3.1% on average for the next five years assuming the current disruptions ease over the next two years. This is double the expected growth in the labour force in general. At that pace, by 2027, there will be more than one million technology workers in Australia.

However, Australia still needs to do more to capitalise on these productivity benefits and become a digital leader internationally. Based on 24 indicators covering workforce, business use, consumer uptake, government use and regulatory landscape, an assessment of international competitiveness shows that Australia ranks 7th out of the 16 nations considered.

Where comparisons with previous years are possible, Australia has fallen in rank for more than half of the indicators in the past two years. This is not because Australia’s performance has declined, but is primarily a result of other countries improving more quickly than Australia.

Attaining the full benefits of digital technology will need policy designed to promote investment in digital technology by businesses and skills by employees.

For example, the Australian government has announced subsidies to encourage students to undertake courses in a number of disciplines — including in IT.

These courses will help workers from other industries to reskill and move into entry-level digital occupations. However, subsidies should also be designed to encourage existing technology workers to upskill their capabilities. This will enable greater productivity benefits for businesses using technology.

We have identified five other key areas to improve the performance and competitiveness of the digital workforce which are detailed more in our report.

Chart 2: Six key areas to improve the performance and competitiveness of Australia’s digital economy and workforce

 

Chart-2

Source: Deloitte Access Economics (2020)

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