The winner of the federal election will tackle a digital economy struggling to attract tech talent and a world on high alert for a Russian cyber offensive.
“We are seeing a skills shortage everywhere, all over the world, especially in some of the areas where we operate – cyber, large networks, communications,” says Verizon executive Sowmyanarayan Sampath.
“That’s why we need to work with governments, with universities, to step in early and develop those skills,” the multinational tech conglomerate’s chief revenue officer told AAP.
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In addition to growing cyber threats to key infrastructure, this shortage of expertise has particularly affected small businesses that politicians on all sides describe as “the backbone of the economy”.
Almost nine in ten jobs now require digital literacy skills, which many Australians lack.
In addition, three-quarters of Australian information security managers consider human error to be their organization’s biggest cyber vulnerability, according to research by US software firm Proofpoint.
Its annual Voice report reveals that 68% of Australian CISOs feel threatened by a hardware cyberattack in the next 12 months, compared to a global average of 48%.
Former US Ambassador to Australia and namesake of the Jeff Bleich Center for Technology and Security at Flinders University, says some of the biggest threats lie in space and cyber.
“New technologies have given hostile nations, organized crime networks, terrorist groups and hacktivists low-cost, high-impact tools,” Bleich said.
“Threats go beyond damage to networks, to financial systems – they threaten things as fundamental as how we elect our leaders and govern ourselves, and how we will work with close allies.”
Potentially boosting security and innovation, Labor plans to create 340,000 tech jobs by the end of the decade if elected.
The coalition’s jobs plan also aims to make Australia a top 10 data and digital economy by 2030.
Joseph Lyons, managing director for Australia and Asia at New Zealand-headquartered Xero, said technology, upskilling and digital support for small businesses has been a focus of the two’s campaign. sides.
“It is important that their needs are taken into account,” he insists.
A survey by the tech company of small business operators found that more than 40% consider the policies supporting them to be their biggest factor when deciding who to vote for.
He also found that technology adoption by small businesses was lagging, with many unprepared to move to basic innovations like e-invoicing.
Around 40% have been affected by the shortage of tech skills in the past two years, while a third believe that a cash rebate or grant to spend on tech would help them use more digital tools.
New payment systems, online accounting and cybersecurity upgrades would qualify as part of the $1 billion tax break provided in the latest budget for businesses to go digital.
Digital Economy Minister Jane Hume has also pledged to create an industry roundtable to discuss issues and wants to attract women to the sector.
Labor says it will support more tech jobs with 465,000 free TAFE places and an additional 20,000 university places.
But with immigration yet to rise and unemployment at its lowest since 1974, economists say there is little capacity in the economy.
The Council of Small Businesses Organizations Australia says the skills and training improvements promised by both sides are welcome, but do not address the critical shortages members are experiencing today.
It’s also important for the business owner to get federal support to upgrade, said council CEO Alexi Boyd.
Lars Leber, VP Australia at Intuit QuickBooks, said whichever side wins, going digital is crucial to ensuring businesses have better cash flow through faster payment, access to capital and a reduction of red tape.
“Only one in four small businesses are able to get the financing they need to start and grow their businesses,” he says.
Interest rates are generally higher and banks are often reluctant to lend to new businesses with small incomes.
Mr Leber says the next federal government can learn from others, including the UK and its Help to Grow: Digital program to boost productivity and innovation.
Labour’s costliest item came late in the campaign.
As the era of cheap capital draws to a close, it offers a billion-dollar critical technologies fund, working with pension and venture capital groups to support Australia’s leading tech thinkers and their companies.
The plan is to incentivize industry to bring Australian investment in research and development closer to the three per cent of GDP seen in similar countries.
The coalition also intends to be a STEM superpower, with a fund to commercialize science, technology, engineering and math breakthroughs.
Mr Sampath says Australia needs access to all the good written technology in the world and needs to improve the skills of its people.
Diversity is also crucial for building and leading cyber teams, tapping new pools of talent from different backgrounds, ethnicities and orientations.
Verizon is on a heightened sense of alert around Russia and the potential for a cyber offensive, but says security teams aren’t seeing anything they haven’t seen before.
Mr. Sampath says that nine of the 10 major offenses are committed by organized criminal syndicates for money.
“They’re getting smarter, that’s why all the people on the other side have to get smarter too,” he says.
“It’s not about James Bond, it’s not about state secrets, it’s about money.
“If you are a criminal enterprise you can work from anywhere, you can work from home, from any country and get paid in a way that cannot be tracked via Bitcoin.”
The government’s 2022 budget pledged a bold $9.9 billion for cybersecurity over 10 years, including nearly 2,000 recruits for the Australian Directorate of Signals to counter the expertise and reach of adversaries.
But it will take them years to find and eliminate them through thorough checks.
Governments remain dependent on private sector expertise, corporate investment to protect themselves, and trusted partners.
“Government can’t do it alone, Australia can’t do it alone,” Mr Sampath said.