Australia needs a chief technologist to become a leading digital nation. Here’s why

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison is seen during a press conference at Beef Australia Expo 2021 in Rockhampton, Queensland, Tuesday, May 4, 2021. Source: AAP Image/Steve Vit.

The Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) has proposed that the federal government appoint a chief technologist to support stronger stewardship of Australia’s technology agenda.

The recommendation has been put forward in a new research report that outlines ways that Australia can become a leading digital nation. It comes a week after the government announced a $1.2 billion digital economy strategy.

COVID-19 has proven that a proactive technology agenda is critical to driving future jobs, growth and prosperity, and enhancing the wellbeing and quality of life of Australians, according to CEDA chief executive Melinda Cilento.

“There is much to be gained from our turbocharged take up of digital technologies over the past year, and the new sources of data this has created,” Cilento said in a statement.

“They must be harnessed to deliver new opportunities for all Australians.”

Former attorney-general Christian Porter was recently appointed as the minister for industry, science and technology, becoming the seventh federal technology minister in just eight years.

Technology has undergone a rapid change over those eight years. However, the ‘ministerial churn’ has undermined Australia’s ability to build expertise and future capability, CEDA noted.

Cilento has argued that Australia must do more if it wants to be a leading digital nation by 2030, as Prime Minister Scott Morrison has claimed.

“What is missing, however, is clarity about what this means, how we get there and how Australia can manage the opportunities and risks of emerging tech while retaining community support. Building and maintaining community trust around data and technology will be critical,” she said.

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