Australia to Allocate A$800m to Digital Initiatives in Budget

The plan includes the development of a digital identity system, modernisation of business registers, rollout support for the CDR, and regtech/fintech initiatives.

Australia’s government has announced a plan to invest nearly AUD 800 million (USD 573 million) to enable businesses to take advantage of digital technologies to grow their businesses and create jobs as part of our economic recovery plan.

The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the adoption of digital technologies by Australian businesses and consumers, which has enabled many to transform their operations and continue to trade through the crisis, said a statement from Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

“Many businesses moved online quickly when the pandemic hit, undergoing a decade of change in months, finding new customers or new ways of doing things,” he said. “Our JobMaker Digital Business Plan provides significant backing to continue that digital push and expand opportunities for businesses to grow and create more jobs.”

According to Morrison, the plan supports Australia’s economic recovery by removing out-dated regulatory barriers, boosting the capability of small businesses and backing the uptake of technology across the economy.

The so-called ‘Digital Business Plan’, part of the government’s plan make Australia a leading digital economy and society by 2030, includes:

  • AUD 256.6 million to develop a digital identity system to enable more secure and convenient engagement with government services, and in future, the private sector.
  • AUD 419.9 million to enable the full implementation of the Modernising Business Registers (MBR) programme, allowing businesses to quickly view, update and maintain their business registry data in one location
  • AUD 28.5 million to support the rollout of the CDR (Consumer Data Right) to the banking and energy sectors, which is in addition to the more than AUD 120 million already committed
  • AUD 29.2 million to accelerate the rollout of 5G, including an initiative to invest in 5G commercial trials and testbeds in key industry sectors such as agriculture, mining, logistics and manufacturing.
  • AUD 22.2 million to support small business operators take advantage of digital technologies through an expansion of the Australian Small Business Advisory Service – a Digital Solutions programme, a Digital Readiness Assessment tool and a Digital Directors training package
  • AUD 11.4 million for a new regtech commercialisation initiative to improve compliance and directly support digital technology firms
  • AUD 9.6 million to support fintechs to export financial services and attract inward investment
  • AUD 6.9 million for two blockchain pilots directed at reducing business compliance costs
  • AUD 5.9 million to boost Australia’s influence on international standards
  • AUD 3.6 million towards mandating the adoption of electronic invoicing by 1 July 2022 for all government agencies to encourage greater adoption amongst businesses supplying to government and within their supply chains, and to consult on options for mandatory adoption of e-invoicing by businesses
  • AUD 2.5 million to connect workers and SME businesses to digital skills training
  • Consulting on making permanent the temporary reforms to allow companies to hold virtual meetings and execute documents electronically
  • Reviewing the regulatory architecture applying to the payments system to ensure it remains fit for purpose and is capable of supporting continued innovation
  • Reforming the regulation around stored-value facilities to support innovation and competition in line with the recommendations of the Council of Financial Regulators.

The above initiatives are in addition to the government’s AUD 4.5 billion plan to bring ultra-fast broadband to millions of families and businesses over the next two years, and complement its digital skills programme and a AUD 1.67 billion investment in Australia’s 2020 Cyber Security Strategy.

The AUD 800 million package will be included in next week’s federal budget, which Morrison said would be the “most important budget since the Second World War”.

The ABA (Australian Banking Association) hailed the new digital plan as a major step forward that will modernise the way Australians do business and deliver significant benefits to consumers.

“Covid-19 has highlighted century-old regulations slowing business down”, said ABA chief Anna Bligh. “These changes will make banking faster and easier.”

“It’s now vital that state governments follow suit, and work together through the national cabinet to ensure state and territories laws are consistent and enable consumers to conduct a range of everyday activities such as electronic mortgages.”

Specifically, the ABA welcomes the permanent changes allowing electronic transactions, virtual AGMs, and funding for the CDR for open banking.

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