Tech: Appoint a Chief Technologist

Parliament House

The federal government should appoint a chief technologist and commit to a transparent and independent technology assessment in order for Australia to become a leading digital nation said the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA).

CEDA chief executive Melinda Cilento said Australia can no longer afford to be a follower in the digital and technology sphere.

“We must ensure we make the most of these important new initiatives,” Cilento said in a media statement today.

“That includes making sure the public understands and accepts these ambitions, and their expectations are reflected in them.”

The suggestion comes on the recent announcement of a $1.2 billion Digital Economy Strategy which shows the government is focused on its technology agenda.

“Australia’s experiences through the COVID-19 pandemic have shown that a proactive technology agenda will be critical to driving future jobs, growth and prosperity, as well as enhancing our wellbeing and quality of life,” Cilento said.

Other nations have already taken similar steps which Australia can look up to for some inspiration.

Since 2009, the US Federal chief technology officer (CTO) has shaped policy and driven the government’s technology agenda.

In Canada, the CTO provides government-wide vision and leadership on digital integration, in Israel, the CTO within the Israel Innovation Authority assesses proposals and formulates policy on companies engaged in research and development.

While in the UK, a regulatory horizons council ensures regulation keeps up with innovation, safeguarding trust and safety.

“Ensuring public trust is considered when technologies are developed means risks can be identified and addressed early. This is far more efficient than relying on retrospective or piecemeal regulation that can be hard to implement,” she added.

“A pre-COVID study by the CSIRO’s Data61 and AlphaBeta found digital technologies, including artificial intelligence, could be worth $315 billion to the Australian economy by 2028.

“Introducing a chief technologist and new tech assessments will help us realise those gains.”

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