Australia slipping on digital competitiveness

Australia’s competitive edge in technology has fallen, dropping to 14th place in a survey of 63 developed nations.

With the adoption of technology a key way for sectors including manufacturing to increase productivity, Australia’s fall in competitiveness in technology issues is an area of concern, according to those pushing Australia forward in this field.

The World Digital Competitiveness ranking, administered by global research firm IMD, showed that Australia had work to do in the business agility, tech skills, and communications area, as Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) CEO, Melinda Cilento highlighted.

“The results highlight that we need a broader national community discussion around the importance of R&D, investment in technology, and tech skills and how the benefits of these flow back to the community,” said Cilento.

While the latest technology is not foreign to Australian businesses and consumers, the use of these technologies for innovation and the development of new skills and products is where the nation is less competitive than its neighbours.

“Our Asia Pacific neighbours are making serious investments into skills and technology infrastructure, both areas where we have dropped off in key areas, and we need to ensure we keep pace. These are the drivers of future competitiveness and opportunity,” said Cilento.

The importance of these newer technologies was not lost on business leaders, who rated investment in R&D and new technologies higher. However, support for this notion in the broader community was lower, suggesting that the benefits of technological innovation was not being felt.

“We need a stronger national conversation around how R&D and adoption by business of new technology can deliver broader opportunities and benefits to the community,” said Cilento.

In a separate survey, Australia’s competitiveness also fell, as other countries improved while Australia remained static. Australia fell to 16th place from 14th place in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report. In this index, a lack of investment in technological adoption also affected Australia’s ranking, said Australian Industry Group chief executive, Innes Willox.

“Despite a small improvement in 2019, Australia’s lowest rankings are in infrastructure and ICT adoption, where we trail both China and Russia.

“This indicates the current focus on building out our national infrastructure (in transport, telecomms and skills) is the right path. But it also indicates we need to sharpen our ICT infrastructure and develop our digital skills to ensure Australia can take advantage of the fourth industrial revolution,” said Willox.