The Government’s 2011 National Digital Economy Strategy (the 2011 NDES) set the goal of Australia becoming a leading digital economy by 2020. In doing so, it nominated eight goals to position Australia as a world leader in broadband connectivity and the use of digital technologies, and set out a bold vision for Australia to be a vibrant, trusted hub in the global digital economy.

Advancing Australia as a Digital Economy is an update of the 2011 NDES, building on the 2011 NDES, and laying out the next steps towards delivering the government's 2020 vision.

Executive Summary

In 2013, the use of online services by Australians covers almost every aspect of daily life, from checking tomorrow’s weather forecast to preparing a meal, paying bills, arranging a holiday or accessing education or health services from remote locations. Almost every aspect of life can be enhanced through some form of online service delivery. New ideas that apply digital technology to everyday situations emerge almost daily. Amid the relentless digital transformation of the global economy, more and more services are becoming available online. But there is much more to do before Australia is a leading digital economy.

This strategic update provides an overview of the dozens of individual initiatives, and outlines a number of new initiatives, that represent the progress being made by the Australian Government to embrace our digital future. To advance Australia as a leading digital economy in the networked world, there are many small steps needed to achieve genuine transformation.

The headline initiative is a Digital First commitment for government to offer its services digitally. As part of Digital First, priority government transactions will be end-to-end digital by 2017. Some alternative channels of service will remain so that agencies can provide assistance to those individuals who cannot easily access online services.

As the economy moves to a greater reliance on online transactions there will be a corresponding need to improve performance and acceptance of online identity arrangements. The Government will contribute to developments in this critical area by significantly enhancing the existing government Document Verification Service and making this more widely available to the private sector. Businesses will be able to reliably identify customers by matching details from customers’ identity documents with records held by the documents’ issuing authorities.

Recognising the role secure digital mailboxes can play in secure online communication, the Government will expand the use of digital mail by myGov and conduct proof-of-concept trials for other digital mailboxes. The trials are expected to demonstrate how digital mailboxes can better and more securely connect Australians with essential government services.

The Government will seek to ensure that Australians have the skills required as the digital future unfolds by promoting a more cohesive approach to ICT skills development. In particular, it will develop a lifecycle approach to ICT skills, beginning with completing the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority’s development of the Australian Curriculum: Technologies and the development of stronger links between industry and tertiary education institutions.

For Australia to become a leading digital economy, our ICT companies must also be working at the cutting edge of digital and technical innovation. Recognising the need to encourage the development of such companies, the Government will enhance the regulatory environment for innovative ICT start-up companies. For example, the Government will examine possible changes to improve employee share scheme arrangements for start-ups by the end of 2013. Looking even further ahead, the Government will also conduct a review of regulations governing crowd-sourced equity funding.

In parallel to this document, the Government has released Australia’s first National Cloud Computing Strategy, which aims to address barriers to adoption while maximising the benefits of cloud computing for the whole Australian economy. It includes a series of actions such as changes to procurement policy to ensure that government agencies consider cloud services for ICT procurements.

There will be help for digital economy beginners too. Individuals, businesses and not-for-profit organisations yet to engage meaningfully in the digital economy will be given a helping hand to do so. Digital Business Kits containing online skills tutorials that have been specifically tailored for different industries will be developed. Additionally, the Digital Enterprise and Digital Local Government programs will be extended to enhance household and business understanding of and engagement in the digital economy.

High-speed broadband will be used to deliver services to older Australians with chronic disease. The Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record will be strongly promoted, as will Medicare- funded telehealth services. These services have opened up a new avenue for the delivery of health services that will particularly benefit people living in regional and remote Australia as well as those with limited mobility. The Government will also support the increased use of digital platforms to provide aged care services.

Through annual National Telework Weeks the Government will continue to promote the uptake of telework, which is a key tool by which organisations will benefit from the digital economy.

These initiatives are supported by a suite of actions outlined in the next section of this paper, which collectively form an integrated strategy to support our ambition to become a leading digital economy.

This document has been fashioned as a strategic update to the 2011 National Digital Economy Strategy—the first of what is intended to be a regular series— to reflect the fast-moving, rapidly changing environment that is our digital future.

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