There are six barriers preventing Australia from leading the world in digital performance — including cultural resistance

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This article has been sponsored by Accenture.

Despite our comparatively steady economy, Australia still trails behind a handful of other countries when it comes to digitisation — specifically blockchain, automation and machine learning.

Leading companies that have been shifting towards automation have seen notable results and increased efficiency, so why more companies aren’t deciding to opt for a similar route remains somewhat of a mystery.

The six main barriers

A study by Accenture back in February of this year found that, somewhat surprisingly, Australia trails behind 35 other countries on the global ranking of digital economic performance, with only a handful of our industries performing better than our global peers.

Australia’s inability to keep up with the rest of the developed world can boil down to six barriers: market dynamics; regulatory pace and public-private cooperation; infrastructure; digital managerial talent and capability; investment costs; and cultural resistance to new ways of working.

Because of these barriers, we’re currently trailing far behind in areas such as cloud computing, automation, machine learning, big data, Internet of Things (IoT), 3D printing, blockchain and, by the slightest of margins, drones — while only taking the lead in smart farming, industrial IoT and robotics.

While some of these shortcomings can be explained away by select industries simply being reluctant to adapt and modernise their processes, an inability to access appropriate funds to stimulate the adoption of digitisation also plays quite a large role and remains a hurdle that could, arguably, be resolved with additional assistance from the government.

How to overcome these barriers

For companies to catch up and eventually become leaders in digitisation, we must work closely with the Australian government to find solutions that will put us on an even playing field with countries like America, England and Canada, the latter recently developing the MaRS Discovery Precinct — the largest urban innovation hub in North America that supports more than 1,200 Canadian science and tech companies.

There are five key actions which government can take to accelerate digitisation in Australia:

  • Supporting digital infrastructure and connectivity
  • Attracting, educating and skilling talent for a digital world
  • Incentivising investment and innovation
  • Adopting regulatory pragmatism and agility
  • Supporting collaborative ecosystem development.
  • As an example of a government supporting digital infrastructure, South Korea’s broadband and 5G roll-out were of the highest quality, while there’s opportunity for continued investment and improvement in ours. So too have we struggled to skill the digital workforce (or re-educate displaced workers), and more support could absolutely be given towards tech start-up companies working in all of Australia’s industries — not just those that are already demonstrating the ability to innovate.

    The government has outlined that they want Australia to be a leading digital economy and society by 2030, however, if it’s unable to implement those five outlined actions, Australia will continue to lag behind other countries and our industries across the board will become stagnant.

    On the flip side, investing in areas like digital infrastructure and connectivity, and supporting technologies across the board may very well lead to Australia becoming leaders in digitisation — which is a far cry from our current 36th ranking but certainly not unattainable.