The role of Government as an enabler

“…how, in the face of unprecedented technological and demographic change, can we ensure that more jobs are created than are lost? And how do we ensure that the jobs created will deliver a higher standard of living than they do today? We need to ensure that we have infrastructure and the skills to embrace the future, to make volatility our friend so that we can take advantage of all the opportunities rapid change will involve.”

The Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP, Prime Minister of Australia

While the digitisation of the Australian economy is primarily market-led, the Government understands that it has an important role in creating the policy framework that promotes the growth of the increasingly digital economy. This is done through:


Investing in affordable and ubiquitous high-speed broadband.

Acting as an exemplar by digitising government services and opening government data sets.

Investing in science and research and promoting innovation.


Enabling Australians to protect themselves so they can go online securely and safely.

Engaging internationally to harness global opportunities.

Flexible regulatory frameworks.

Section icon

Investing in affordable and ubiquitous high-speed broadband

“Australian businesses are adaptable and resilient—we readily embrace new ideas, new technologies and new ways of working. Access to the nbn network will open up opportunities for small business owners in our growing digital services driven economy. Whether you’re an online craft business able to source and sell products more efficiently or a tradie now able to process payments on-the-go, e-commerce will allow Australian businesses to access new markets, no matter where they operate.”

Bernard Salt, Demographer, KPMG

NBN, multi-technology premises mix, 2020 image
nbn, multi-technology premises mix, 2020

Affordable and ubiquitous high-speed broadband creates the platform for the digitisation of the economy. The Government’s multi-technology mix reforms to the nbn have enabled the network to be rolled out quicker and at less cost to taxpayers.

Currently, more than two million premises can connect to the nbn—with every Australian to have access by 2020. The nbn project is forecast to cost $46–56 billion.

On 1 October 2015, the Government launched the first of nbn’s two world-class satellites. nbn’s high-capacity satellites will cover more than 400,000 homes and businesses, providing wholesale speeds of up to 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) download, and 5 Mbps upload across Australia. The nbn Long Term Satellite Service (LTSS) will help to bridge the broadband digital divide between Australia’s cities and regions.

“The nbn network provides the platform for a range of advanced services that are changing the way Australians do business. For regional Australian businesses, it has the benefit of providing greater flexibility and access to global markets. We are already seeing the rise of new “Silicon Suburbs” around the country as universal access to fast broadband drives entrepreneurialism and innovation outside metro cities.”

Ben Salmon, Executive General Manager, nbn


Mobile Black Spot Programme

The Government also recognises that inadequate mobile broadband and phone coverage remains a significant issue for Australians in regional and remote Australia. The Australian Government has committed $160 million through the Mobile Black Spot Programme to invest in telecommunications infrastructure to address mobile black spots along major regional transport routes, in small communities and in locations prone to experiencing natural disasters.

Mobile black spot map
Location of the Mobile Black spot Programme funded mobile base stations

Under Round 1 of the programme, the Government has committed $100 million to deploy 499 new or upgraded mobile base stations across regional and remote Australia—429 Telstra and 70 Vodafone base stations. Round 1 of the programme has been highly successful in maximising co-contributions from third parties, including state and local governments and local communities.

The collective total being invested in the 499 base stations under Rround 1 of the programme is $385 million. Round 1 of the programme will deliver:

  • new handheld coverage to 68,600 square kilometres of regional Australia;
  • over 150,000 square kilometres of new external antenna; and
  • more than 5,700 kilometres of new handheld or external antenna coverage to major transport routes receiving.

A further $60 million has been committed by the Government for a Second Round of the programme. The locations to be funded under the next round will be announced in the second half of 2016.

Section icon

Acting as an exemplar by digitising government services and opening government data sets

The Government is committed to lead by example in demonstrating the economic and productivity benefits of utilising digital technologies. By investing in its digital environment, the Government will provide better services to its citizens, and improve value for money to taxpayers.

Australian taxpayers could realise economic benefits of more than $20.5 billion over the next decade if the Government invests in digitising services. This is 1.3 per cent of Australia’s GDP, or around $2,000 per household.

Government Exemplar Infographic


The Digital Transformation Office (DTO)

“Our opportunity is immense. We think Australia can become the best in the world at delivering government services.”

Paul Shetler, Chief Executive Officer, DTO

In July 2015, the Government established the Digital Transformation Office (DTO). The DTO’s mission is to lead the transformation of government services to deliver a better experience for Australians.

The DTO currently has six projects underway, including the following four projects, which are at the ‘Beta’ development stage:

  • Citizenship appointment booking service that makes it quicker, easier and more convenient to reschedule a citizenship test appointment.
  • The Digital Permit Service, which simplifies international trade and the importation of goods across Australia’s border and reduces the need for industry to present paper permits.
  • A new Starting a business service that guides a user through an online series of questions that determines whether the user is ‘in business’, and then assists them to comply with their regulatory obligations, if any.
  • Accessing health benefits to transform the way parents enrol newborns for Medicare.

As part of the NISA, the DTO will also develop a new Digital Marketplace. The Digital Marketplace will make it easier for small and medium businesses to compete for the $5 billion that the Government spends on Information and Communications Technology (ICT) each year. This important initiative promotes competition and innovation in Australia’s ICT sector. Much smaller Australian business will be able to compete on a level playing field with large ICT incumbents.

Digitising Government Services

Single Business Service

The Government’s single business service agenda is transforming the way government connects with, and supports, business. It is making it easier for Australia’s 2.1 million businesses to find, understand and access government information and services. Central to this is the Single Business Service Programme of work. This work is investing in new capabilities and service delivery enhancements that improve digital platforms and leverage emerging technologies to put business needs first.

My Health Record

My Health Record is an Australian Government initiative which gives patients and health professionals immediate access to health information online to improve co-ordinated care outcomes, reduce duplication and provide vital information in emergency situations. Currently 2.7 million Australians have a My Health Record. This will increase to 3.6 million by mid-2016. Initiatives like My Health Record could deliver $7.6 billion in annual savings, improved value and efficiency in healthcare expenditures by 2020 as well as save 5,000 lives per year. My Health Record could also avoid 2 million primary care and outpatient visits, 500,000 emergency department visits, and 310,000 hospital admissions.

The Australian Business Registrar (ABR)

The Australian Business Registrar (ABR) is the cornerstone for the measurement of economic activity within Australia, providing a comprehensive, accurate and consistent list of businesses. This list provides the basis for the collection of data from these businesses, which are used to compile economic statistics, including the National Accounts, for the purpose of encouraging informed decision-making, research and discussion within government and the community.

The ABR now contains 7.2 million Australian Business Number registrations, and attracts 500 million searches a year.

Public Data

The Government has also joined the data revolution. It is estimated data-driven innovation added $67 billion to Australia’s economy in 2013—which is broadly equivalent to the retail sector’s contribution.

Data held by the Australian Government should be considered a national resource with the potential to help grow the economy, and stimulate innovation. Since the 2013 Federal Election, the Government has progressed its public data agenda by:
Publishing over 7,000 additional data sets on the website, this is more than a 15-fold increase since September 2013.

Creating an Open Data Toolkit that provides data custodians and users with a central repository of information on how to streamline processes for publishing data.

Making high value datasets openly available, including the Geocoded National Address File, Intellectual Property Government Open Live Data, and mobile phone black spots data.

Undertaking the Open Data 500 Australia survey to understand how Australian organisations are using public sector data and provide a basis for assessing the social and economic value of open Government datasets.

Establishing the DataStart open data initiative which aims to give Australian tech start-ups new opportunities to develop sustainable business solutions through access to government data.

Healthcare icon

cohortIQ—science based decision making for healthcare

cohortIQ, a health start-up that uses hospital and public government data to reduce the estimated 235,000 avoidable hospital admissions each year, was named the winner of DataStart on 18 January 2016. cohortIQ has been awarded $200,000 in seed fund investment from Right Click Capital and Pollenizer Investments, as well as a nine month incubation program with Pollenizer. The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, and the DataStart corporate partners, including Optus, Google, PwC Australia, CSIRO’s Data61, RoZetta, and the Australian Information Industry Association, will also provide ongoing support and resources to cohortIQ.

The Government has also released a Public Data Policy Statement, which sets out the Government’s approach to make non-sensitive data open by default. The Government has also made progress with a number of public data initiatives.

Geoscience Australia and the Australian National University have partnered to unlock valuable Landsat satellite data, enabling detailed mapping and analysis of Australia’s land and water. Drawing on these Landsat images, Geoscience Australia has produced maps of Australia’s surface water patterns which provide unique information for flood risk assessment and ecosystem management. Image analysis can now be done more efficiently, within a matter of hours or days, rather than months or years.

The National Map is designed to make better use of public data. The National Map is an open resource the public can use to visualise geospatial data.

These initiatives help the public, businesses, academia and research sectors to leverage the value of public data.

Section icon

Investing in science and research and promoting innovation

The Government recognises innovation and science are critical for Australia to deliver new sources of growth, maintain high-wage jobs, and seize the next wave of economic prosperity. The NISA is a $1.1 billion package of initiatives focussed on four key pillars to promote innovation and science:

  1. Culture and capital
  2. Collaboration
  3. Talent and skills
  4. Government as an exemplar

Minister Hunt with Professor Simmons in the UNSW Quantum Computing lab, 2016
Minister Hunt with Professor Simmons in the UNSW Quantum Computing lab, 2016.

The NISA will drive smart ideas that create Australian business growth, local jobs and global success. More than half of the measures either directly enable digital technologies to reach their full potential, or improve the regulatory frameworks for digital innovation. Notable measures include:

  • Investing in developing and attracting world-class talent and preparing our workforce for the digital jobs of the future by:
    • equipping young Australians to create and use digital technologies ($51 million);
    • expanding opportunities for women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, known as STEM ($13 million);
    • improving visa arrangements, including enhancing pathways to permanent residency for high quality STEM and ICT post-graduate students ($1 million); and
    • inspiring STEM literacy in the next generation of Australians ($48 million).
  • Boosting Australia’s world-class capability in quantum computing research towards building a silicon quantum circuit ($26 million). The Centre for Quantum Computation and Communications Technology, headquartered at the University of New South Wales, is a global leader in silicon-based quantum computing research. Developing a quantum computing capability would mean the development of a valuable domestic high-technology industry—leading to jobs and economic growth for Australia. Both the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, and Telstra have also committed to investing $10 million in the Centre’s quantum research programme.
  • Building and maintaining Australia’s world-leading data science research capability through Data 61 ($75 million). Data 61 is the largest data innovation group in Australia and was created when the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation’s (CSIRO) Digital Productivity flagship and National ICT Australia (NICTA) merged into a new CSIRO entity. With cutting edge research in data analytics and cyber security, Data 61 will help develop new technology-based industries and transform existing ones.


The Chief Scientist’s STEM Programme Index 2016

School principals will have more than 250 science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programmes for students at their fingertips, with the release of the first national STEM Programme Index. SPI 2016 is an accessible guide to business, university, government and community-led initiatives putting students on the fast track to the future. It includes in-class, after school, holiday, residential and online activities, catering to a wide and growing range of students. SPI 2016 can be downloaded from:

Section icon

Enabling Australians to protect themselves so they can go online securely and safely

The Australian Government has a duty to protect our nation from cyber-attack, and to protect our most vulnerable citizens—our children—when they go online and participate in the digital world.


On 21 April, the Prime Minister released Australia’s Cyber Security Strategy. The Strategy establishes five themes of action over the next four years to 2020:

  1. A national cyber partnership
  2. Strong cyber defences
  3. Global responsibility and influence
  4. Growth and innovation
  5. A cyber smart nation.

Each theme is supported by actions the Government will undertake to improve Australia’s cyber security, and ensure Australia can continue to grow and prosper and to seize the opportunities of tomorrow. The strong cyber defences and the cyber smart nation themes are especially relevant to protecting Australians online.

Under the strong cyber defences theme, the Government has committed to improving threat information sharing between the public and private sector, establishing joint cyber threat sharing centres in key capital cities, and creating an online cyber threat sharing portal.

The cyber smart nation theme sets out initiatives to protect Australians from scams and other malicious online activity. This is to be achieved through a sustained, national public-private awareness campaign to educate Australians on the impacts of cyber risks, as well as international cooperation on capacity building.

Together with the funds allocated under the Defence White Paper to enhance cyber capabilities, the Government is investing $632 million towards national cyber security. Under the NISA, the Government has also established a Cyber Security Growth Centre to create opportunities for Australian businesses in this critical new sector of the economy ($30.5 million).

Computer icon

Run by the Office of the Information Commissioner, this year’s Privacy Awareness Week’s (15–21 May 2016) theme is Privacy in your hands. For businesses and government agencies this means privacy is part of good governance and made a key priority. For individuals, it means understanding your rights, making choices and taking charge of your privacy in the digital age.


Dean Lewins/AAP
Photo: Dean Lewins/AAP

The Government has a role to guide children and young people towards safe, and enjoyable experiences online. Approximately one million children access social media sites per month, but more than one in five children between the ages of eight and seventeen report cyberbullying experiences per year. Launched in July 2015, the Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner’s role is to promote trust and confidence online by educating and helping prevent harmful online behaviour occurring to children in the first place.

Section icon

Engaging internationally to harness global opportunities

The internet provides a pathway for consumers and businesses to access goods, services and technology from around the world. However, tariffs, compliance and administration costs, inadequate intellectual property protection, and other barriers can reduce the opportunities presented by the internet. This is why trade deals that reduce barriers to commerce between countries remain important to improving the efficiency and competitiveness of the Australian economy.

Since the 2013 Federal Election, the Government has concluded groundbreaking Free Trade Agreements (FTA) with China, Japan and South Korea, which deliver commercial opportunities and drive innovation as Australian businesses, big and small, increasingly exploit e-commerce and other emerging technologies to connect with consumers and business partners in these countries. These FTAs also help Australia attract more foreign investment—including in high-tech sectors —as global investors seek to use Australia as a regional platform to export to North Asia.

The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a regional FTA of unprecedented scope and ambition that includes state-of-the-art commitments for trade in the digital age. The 12 countries that negotiated the TPP represent 40 per cent of the global economy, and a quarter of world trade. The TPP includes new rules about the movement and storage of data as well as enhanced commitments to protect privacy, consumer rights and efforts to combat ‘spam’ messages.

Beyond FTAs, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Information Technology Agreement (ITA) is an undertaking to liberalise global trade in ICT products. In December 2015, 52 WTO Members agreed to expand the product coverage of the ITA and remove tariffs on a further 201 products, which account for almost ten per cent of global trade. The expansion of the ITA is the first major tariff-cutting deal at the WTO in 18 years. Australia imports $19 billion worth of goods covered under the expanded agreement, and exports $3.6 billion. Eliminating tariffs on these goods benefits Australian consumers by putting downward pressure on end prices, and benefit businesses by reducing costs and making Australia’s export industries more competitive.

The value of Free Trade Agreements and Trans Pacific Partnerships to the Australian Economy


Chinese Flag


Two-way trade with China is worth $150 billion. More than 85 per cent of Australia’s goods exports to China will enter at duty free or preferential rates, while tariffs on billions-of-dollars-worth of other goods exports are being reduced. Once the agreement is fully implemented, 97.9 per cent of Australian goods will enter China duty free or have preferential access.

Japanese Flag


Bilateral trade with Japan is worth over $68 billion. More than 99.5 per cent of Australia’s exports to Japan will receive preferential access or enter duty-free when the Agreement is fully implemented.

South Korean Flag


When fully implemented, 99.7 per cent of Australian goods exports will enter Korea duty free or at preferential rates. Korea is Australia’s fourth-largest trading partner—with bilateral trade worth more than $35 billion.

TPP Image


Australia’s two-way trade with TPP countries was worth around $226 billion. The TPP will eliminate more than 98 per cent of tariffs in the TPP region. Tariffs on US$9 billion of Australia’s dutiable exports to TPP countries will be eliminated.


The FTA Portal launched in March 2016 by the Trade and Investment Minister, the Hon Steven Ciobo MP, is an Australian Government initiative to help business to seize export opportunities by maximising their utilisation of FTAs.The FTA Portal enables exporters and importers, especially time-poor small and medium enterprises, to explore the benefits of the agreements quickly and easily. Developed collaboratively by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Data61, the Portal uses smart information technology to deliver product-specific FTA information in an easy to understand and user-friendly way.

The Australian Government also actively engages in international fora to promote its digital economy policies, and to ensure the internet remains secure, open and free. In 2014, Australia was re-elected to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Council—the United Nations specialised agency for Information and Communications Technologies. The Australian Government is also an active participant in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) digital economy related working groups.


The FTAs, Australia’s participation in ITU and OECD fora, coupled with the establishment of Landing Pads, helps Australian companies’ access new opportunities to reach global markets. Announced as part of the NISA, the Government will invest $36 million over five years through a Global Innovation Strategy to improve Australia’s international innovation and science collaboration. $11 million will be used to establish five landing pads. One in Tel Aviv, Silicon Valley, Shanghai, Berlin and one other yet to be announced location. The five landing pads will provide Australian market-ready startups with a short-term operational base in global innovation hotspots.

“…The Turnbull Government continues to pursue an ambitious trade agenda to create new opportunities for Australian businesses to export, expand and employ more people. While the Coalition has had great success in concluding free trade agreements with China, Japan and Korea, there is more to be done. We continue to progress FTA negotiations with India, and Indonesia, pursue an FTA with the Gulf Cooperation Council and maintain momentum on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations. Removing trade barriers remains a key priority for the Coalition Government in Australia’s transitioning economy.”

The Hon Steven Ciobo MP, Minister for Trade and Investment

Section icon

Flexible regulatory frameworks

Coin icon

Digital technologies are rapidly evolving, which can present challenges for policy makers and regulators. While Governments need to ensure consumers and workers are reasonably protected, our laws and regulations should not stifle the growth of the digital elements of the economy. For example, the Competition Policy Review (the Harper Review) highlighted the challenges brought about by rapid technological change, such as Uber, in the taxi industry.

The Financial System Inquiry (the Murray Inquiry) also recognised the important role digital technologies play in the financial system. In its response to the Murray Inquiry, the Government agreed to the following:

  • Developing a national digital identity strategy to help streamline individuals’ engagement with government
  • Clarifying regulators’ powers to ensure they can regulate new payment systems in a graduated way, such as digital currencies (e.g. Bitcoin) and other payment systems as they emerge
  • Introducing legislation to facilitate crowd-sourced equity funding
  • Tasking the Productivity Commission to review options to improve the accessibility and use of data to unlock efficiencies in the financial system
  • Committing to amend priority areas of existing financial regulation to make them technology neutral, and not impede innovation and competition in the financial system.

FinTech Statement

The recently announced FinTech Statement further sets out the Government’s commitment to innovation in the financial system by outlining the Government’s plan for a strong and vibrant FinTech industry through:

  • ensuring that start-ups involved in FinTech, including in insurance and finance related activities, can be eligible investments for the purposes of the venture capital tax concession. In addition, implementing a tax incentive for early stage investors to further drive investment in new innovative businesses
  • addressing the ‘double taxation’ of consumers when they use digital currencies to buy goods and services which are already subject to GST
  • supporting the work of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission on the development of a ‘regulatory sandbox’ where Australian FinTech start‑ups can test their ideas and business models, and
  • continuing to work with the FinTech industry to ensure that Australia has a competitive and commercially attractive crowd funding framework.
Tower icon

Reviews in the telecommunications sector

The Government has also undertaken three reviews in the telecommunications sector to promote the digitisation of the Australian economy. The Telecommunications Regulatory and Structural Reform review, (Vertigan Reviews) looked at the long-term strategy for supporting more competition in the telecommunications sector. Promoting competition in the telecommunications market is important. Competition makes service providers compete harder to win business—keeping prices low and the quality of service high.

The Government is also currently implementing recommendations from the Spectrum Review. Mobile broadband enabled devices, such as smartphones and tablets, are an integral part of today’s communications landscape. Spectrum is the electromagnetic infrastructure that supports the use of mobile devices, and is an increasingly scarce resource. The new spectrum management framework will be simpler, more efficient, flexible and sustainable to support new and innovative technologies and services.

Telecommunications services, such as broadband and mobile services, have and will continue to shape the lives and improve the economic opportunities for people in regional Australia. In 2015, the Regional Telecommunications Independent Review Committee, which is established every three years, reviewed the adequacy of telecommunications services in regional, rural and remote parts of Australia. The rollout of the nbn, including its Long Term Satellite Service, and the Mobile Black Spot Programme will allow people in regional Australia to participate in the increasingly digital world. The Government recognises it needs to remain vigilant, and consistently monitor the adequacy of telecommunications services to ensure a digital divide does not occur between Australia’s cities, and regional and remote areas.