21 December 2018

Tech Future

The national Industry Department has released Australia's Tech Future: Delivering A Strong, Safe And Inclusive Digital Economy, a strategy document that was expected at the beginning of the year and arguably hasn't been greatly improved by months in the policy blender.

It is an echo of the past twenty years' of internet-centred strategy documents that enthuse about futures for health, education, business, research, public administration and community inclusion but don't result in sustained action, in part because the minister/department of the day doesnt have heft and longevity.

In articulating 'vision' the document states
Vision: That Australians enjoy an enhanced quality of life and share in the opportunities of a growing, globally competitive modern economy, enabled by technology.
Countries around the world are investing heavily to take advantage of the significant economic and social opportunities that a digital economy can bring. Australia’s ongoing economic success depends on our ability to harness technological advances to improve existing businesses, create new products and markets, and enhance daily life.
A report by Data61 estimates that improvements to existing industries and growth of new ones could be worth $315 billion to the Australian economy over the next decade.
Australia’s Tech Future details how Australia can maximise the opportunities of technological change by focusing on four key areas:
• People: developing Australia’s digital skills and leaving no one behind 
• Services: how government can better deliver digital services 
• Digital assets: building infrastructure and providing secure access to high-quality data 
• The enabling environment: maintaining our cyber security and reviewing our regulatory systems
Under each of these elements, the agenda sets clear outcomes, identifies opportunities and areas that need further focus, and outlines corresponding Government plans of action.
By working together we can ensure Australians can share in the opportunities of a growing, globally competitive modern economy, enabled by technology. Digital technologies will deliver benefits across the economy and society
The opportunities afforded by digital technologies are not constrained to technology-based companies and start-ups – they can add value across all parts of the economy.
For businesses, these technologies have the potential to help develop new products, access new markets, work more efficiently and improve the bottom-line, better target consumer preferences through use of data, and deliver safer working environments.
The document goes on ...
While agriculture is one of the world’s oldest industries, farmers are some of our best leaders in the uptake of new technologies. Self-steering, GPS-guided tractors and other high-tech farming equipment have already become a normal part of farming in Australia, helping our farmers be more efficient and save on chemicals and other high-cost inputs. Into the future, the combination of satellite technologies, drones and better use of data will deliver even more support for farmers making decisions on planting, fertilising and watering crops (see Yield Technology case study). Blockchain also holds the potential to transform supply chain management and biosecurity outcomes (see AgriDigital case study).
Australian manufacturers are using digital technologies to modernise their systems and processes (see Astor Industries case study). From robotics and artificial intelligence to advanced modelling software and 3D printing, technology has become an integral part of doing business. Digital technologies will help Australian manufacturers thrive into the future, as they use 3D printers for rapid prototyping, collaborate with cloud-based tools on component design and production and implement sensors connected using Internet of Things (IoT) technology to monitor production processes. These technologies help to ensure only the highest quality products leave the factory, while better use of data, including from customers about their experience, will be used to anticipate demand and inform new product development.
The resources and mining sector is undergoing an intense period of change as mining companies embrace digital technologies to drive productivity and improve safety. It is already commonplace to see driverless trains and trucks moving large volumes of iron ore around the clock in mines across Western Australia. Looking ahead, emerging technologies will become further embedded in mine operations. Technology such as 3D printing can be used to quickly deliver critical spare parts in remote locations reducing delays in production. Drones and sensors will be used to collect real time data, particularly in dangerous or inaccessible locations, and this will be used to support better planning and management of mining operations which will reduce the cost of extraction and improve the safety of mine workers.
Australia is now a top 10 global destination and digital technologies are increasingly used by both travel operators and consumers at all stages of the travel experience. Tourist operators have invested in cutting edge virtual reality and 360 degree mobile technologies- there is nothing like a life-like experience of snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef to attract tourists to our shores. Consumers are increasingly planning and booking travel online and then rating their experiences. In the near future, greater use of data combined with machine learning will enable travel companies to predict when and where travellers may want to travel allowing them to better target travel experiences and to generate personalised offers for the travelling public.
The services sector makes up a large part of the Australian economy, employing four out of five Australians. Advances in technology such as artificial intelligence, data, analytics, machine learning and robotics are driving competitiveness and productivity. Digital commerce continues to grow in use and popularity, technology is enabling frontline engagement with customers in stores and businesses are realising increased sales through online sales and creating digitally connected stores. In financial services credit card companies are using data to detect fraudulent transactions, and insurance companies are using data to set fairer and more accurate policy premiums. For the Australian community, digital technologies are improving health and education outcomes and, making services, particularly government services more accessible. Advances in technology are also improving how we manage emergency situations and making our cities more liveable including through better transport.
The opportunities to use digital technologies to improve health outcomes are continually expanding (see case studies on Helimods and iOrthotics). Hospitals are using software developed by CSIRO to better manage patient flows and reduce waiting times and some remote communities are gaining increased access to specialised services via digital channels. Healthcare professionals are using robotics to improve surgery outcomes, radiographers are using computers that are trained to recognise patterns in images to identify irregularities in scans. But consumers are also being empowered to better manage their own health. As well as accessing health information online, devices that monitor blood pressure and heart rate are saving lives and those that track activity and diet are also improving health and wellbeing. In the future, our ability to tailor healthcare solutions to individual needs will see further improvements in health outcomes. Increased use of sensors will enable greater use of devices that can monitor the health of older Australians within their homes, notifying medical authorities if required. This will increase independence and quality of life while providing peace of mind.
We all know that a good education provides a great start in life. Digital technologies are not only changing what we need to teach our children (see case studies on Swinburne University and the esmart library Program), they are changing how we teach them. The pace of change in technology also means that we have to keep learning throughout our lives, keeping up-to-date with how technology can help us at home and at work. Students are increasingly using digital tools to access information and educational resources, many are completing qualifications largely online. As well as increasing access, particularly for people in regional and remote locations (see Mobile Black Spot Program case study), digital tools can provide all students with more tailored educational solutions that meet their particular needs.
Everyday services
A whole range of services that people use every day, including banking, shopping and entertainment are available online. Access to goods and services online is particularly important for Australians living in rural and remote areas. Data about the availability, cost and customer experience of services is helping us choose a restaurant for dinner, an energy provider or where to holiday. Government services are also increasingly available online with the aim to deliver seamless, painless and efficient services that protect people’s privacy and security. Services including myGov and myTax are good examples of how the government is transforming the way Australians deal with government.
Emergency services
Better management of emergency response situations through the use of digital technologies including accidents, floods and bushfires is helping save our environment, people’s homes and lives. Emergency services including Police, Fire and Ambulance and are using digital tools to improve data collection and sharing of intelligence in complex situations. Authorities are also using mobile phones to alert people of local emergency situations to keep people informed and safe. In the future, people calling 000 on a mobile phone will automatically relay locational details. This will allow emergency services to be immediately despatched saving time and potentially lives, particularly in places where the caller may find it hard to identify the specific location, for example on a country road. CSIRO’s bushfire prediction tool ‘Spark’ (see Spark Platform case study) is a great example of how digital technologies are being used to predict the behaviour of bushfires thereby making communities safer, stronger and more resilient.
Many Australians travel to and from home, work, the shops or school each day. Not only are digital technologies making our cars, trains and buses safer and more efficient, but improved collection and use of data is helping manage our transport systems and traffic flows in our cities. In the future, increasing automation of vehicles will support people to become or stay independently mobile while potentially reducing the number of cars on the road and sitting in car parks. Widespread implementation of improved safety features such as automatic emergency braking and sensors to detect driver alertness will lead to fewer accidents on our roads. Better management of public transport, based on detailed analysis of data about how and when we move around the city, will reduce commuting time and make our cities more liveable.
To secure these benefits requires a strategy for Australia‘s technology future which embraces emerging technologies, and creates the environment for Australian’s to have their quality of life improved by a modern digital economy.
Understanding emerging technologies
A range of emerging technologies are forecast to change and improve many fundamental tasks and interactions in the coming years, including how we work, travel, and communicate with each other. Technologies such as artificial intelligence, blockchain and quantum computing present significant opportunities for people, businesses and the broader economy.
Artificial Intelligence
Artificial intelligence (AI) is a broad term used to describe a collection of technologies that can solve problems and perform tasks to achieve defined objectives without explicit human guidance.
Central to AI are automation and machine learning that underpin applications such as natural language processing (Apple Siri or Amazon Alexa), computer vision (Tesla Autopilot), and optimisation and decision support (Google Maps).
AI has the potential to automate repetitive or dangerous tasks, increase productivity and allow the development of innovative consumer products. It is forecast to add trillions of dollars to the global economy in the coming decades. Examples include:
• Using advanced data analytics techniques to diagnose diseases at earlier and more treatable stages 
• Using automated machines for hauling and drilling on mine sites, increasing productivity and reducing risks to workers 
• Enabling greater use of smart forms that can tailor legal information to assist individuals to draft a will or settle financial arrangements following a break-up 
• Tailoring content on entertainment platforms to meet user preferences
There is considerable effort, both in Australia and internationally, focused on ensuring that AI is applied ethically and delivers broad societal benefits. 
Blockchain is a digital platform that records, verifies and stores transactions shared across a network of computers according to an agreed set of rules. This removes the need for verification by a central authority, such as a bank.
Cryptography is used to keep transactions secure, and costs are shared among network participants. The fact the transaction history is viewable and verifiable by all network participants allows for much higher levels of transparency and auditability than is otherwise possible. Although blockchain is still an emerging technology, it can be applied across a wide range of industries and to almost any transaction that involves a value, including:
• Financial transactions 
• Faster clearing and settlement times could reduce credit risk and capital requirements, lowering transaction costs across the board. This could have practical benefits for real estate transactions 
• Significantly reduced contracting, compliance and enforcement costs can make low-value transactions economically viable through use of auto-executed ‘smart contracts’. This would allow for faster and easier transfer of royalties from digital platforms to digital content creators, such as musicians, writers and vloggers. 
• Government services 
• Validating the identity of a person without revealing personal information 
• Allowing for government to reduce fraud, corruption, errors and the cost of paper-intensive processes. 
• Tracing the history of a product 
• Tracking the provenance and trade of digital and physical goods. This would help ensure consumers are receiving genuine items that are otherwise susceptible to fraud, such as ethically sourced diamonds and luxury food items.
Internet of Things (IoT)
he Internet of Things (IoT) refers to the increasing use of sensors that record thing such as sounds, touch, movement, temperature and even chemical composition that are being used to automatically collect data about people, the environment and objects and transmit this information over the Internet.
The increasing application of this technology has been made possible by the availability of cheaper and better sensors, the wide availability of internet connectivity and increased computing power.
Examples of how IoT is delivering benefits to the community include:
• Smart health care devices that can monitor patients and alert medical authorities if required 
• Sensors in energy and water infrastructure that enable providers to better track and manage maintenance 
• Sensors in the soil that can measure moisture levels and help farmers better manage water use and improve harvest.
Quantum computing
Quantum computing is an emerging technology that would exponentially increase available computing power to help us solve problems that we cannot tackle with existing computers. Quantum computers, will be able to crack codes easily and they have the potential to disrupt existing security methods that use encrypted data, such as in banking and other industries. Quantum computers also have applications in scientific fields and could help answer questions that have baffled scientists for generations.
Australia is recognised as a world leader in silicon-based quantum computing research, which is one of the most promising pathways to developing a commercially viable quantum computer.
As part of the National Innovation and Science Agenda, the Government invested $25 million in the Silicon Quantum Computing Pty Ltd venture, in partnership with leading academic institutions and businesses.