IT skills should be “the new kind of literacy” and just as fundamental to a person’s education as reading and writing, according to Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
Speaking at the launch of the Australia’s Digital Pulse report in Canberra, Turnbull said Australians are living in the most exciting and disruptive time in human history.
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“The connectivity of the internet, the GPS which is built into every smartphone – look at what that’s done to the taxi industry with Uber,” he said.
“Look at Airbnb as a classic example. It has added 10,000 rooms to date to Sydney’s short-term rental market and that’s without a single brick laid, a single concierge being deferred to, no planning permits. It’s extraordinary. If you like change and disruption and a little bit of a revolution like I do, it’s very, very exciting.”
The report, which was published by the Australian Computer Society and Deloitte, found digital technologies now make up just over 5% of the country’s GDP.
Despite this, there are not enough IT graduates coming through the pipeline in order to meet industry demand, with an additional 100,000 ICT workers needed in Australia over the next six year.
Turnbull says digital technology needs to be part of the backbone of the Australian education curriculum if policymakers are to prove the “doomsayers” wrong and ensure the Australian economy remains strong in the future.
In addition, he says the “cultural problems” of diversity in tech need to be addressed in order for the industry to meet its true potential.
“We need a renewed focus not only on digital literacy, but on technology creation to ensure our children have the skills to not only consume ICT but the ability to leverage the technology to create,” he says.
“The basic issue is this – Australia needs a workforce that is equipped with the ICT skills to fulfil a digitally driven economy. Digital skills should be the new kind of literacy, as fundamental as reading and writing. ICT skills are not simply necessary for jobs in the IT sector – all of us have to be digitally savvy just as we all have to be literate even though we’re not journalists.”