$210 billion boost by driving the digital economy

30 April 2021

New Business Council analysis shows that Australia could be $210 billion better off over the next 20 years if we speed up our shift to a digital economy.

The analysis, completed by EY for the BCA’s digital economy and telecommunications working group, finds with the right approach Australia can fulfil its ambition to be a digital leader by 2030.

“People want easier, more convenient ways of doing business so becoming a leading digital economy is win-win. It makes everyday life easier for consumers and it creates new jobs,’’ Business Council President Tim Reed said.

“The slow drift away from cash and paper before COVID-19 became a stampede during the pandemic, now we’ve got to build on the momentum to make lives easier and position ourselves for the future.”

Research commissioned by Telstra had already shown that increased rates of digitisation would create 250,000 new jobs in just five years.

Telstra CEO and working group chair Andrew Penn said: “If we are bold and if we act now it will shape our economy, our society and our future for the benefit of all Australians.”

To accelerate the digital transformation, we must address the policy settings that are acting as a handbrake on transforming the economy.

That means skilling up workers for new jobs quickly, making sure tax settings recognise digital investment in the same way as physical one, and ensuring regulation attracts investment and innovation.

The BCA recommends:

  • leading from the top by appointing a dedicated cabinet minister for the digital economy to oversee Australia’s digital transformation
  • reducing unnecessary regulation and red tape to support more businesses and customers to move to a cashless, paperless and virtual society including
  • lifting the nation’s digital skills by
    • setting minimum digital literacy standards for school students, and
    • introducing digital micro-apprenticeships focused on short-term, flexible courses with work placements.
  • Driving digital investment by:
    • tax incentives or grants worth up to $10,000 for small and medium businesses to invest in digital skills training, shift to e-invoicing and improve their cyber security, and
    • including digital services in a 20 per cent investment allowance for businesses of all sizes to encourage digital investment in areas such as using services based on the cloud.

“Focusing on these priorities will accelerate the adoption of digital technology, keep costs down, make Australia an easier place to do business and create new jobs,’’ Mr Reed said.

“The analysis shows that better and more effective regulation could make Australians $119 billion better off over the next 20 years.

“And we’ll need the best skilled workers in the world to take advantage of new jobs in new and developing industries.

“By getting the skills system right for the 21st century, Australia could grow its economy by $47 billion over the next 20 years.’

“Action should also include a 20 per cent digital investment allowance that makes investing in new technology easier for businesses across the whole economy,’’ Mr Reed said.

Mr Penn added: “The Prime Minister has set a goal for Australia to be a leading digital economy by 2030 and is already backing this goal up with investments, including $800 million for the Digital Business Plan to enable businesses to take advantage of digital technologies.

“It is critical that as a nation we continue to build on this momentum to drive connectivity, productivity and efficiency and — importantly — create a new wave of much-needed employment.

“We can’t afford to miss this opportunity for far-reaching reform and the once-in-a-generation chance to create and accelerate a powerful digital economy in Australia,” said Mr Penn.

Read the Business Council’s full report here


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