Future of work

Startup founders react to a new report saying Australia is lagging key nations on tech innovation

- September 23, 2021 3 MIN READ
Photo: AdobeStock
A new report into Australia’s digital future, released with week found that the nation is falling behind the US, UK, Canada, France and China when it comes to tech innovation.

The analysis by the Australian Academy of Science and the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering results in the two peak bodies issuing an urgent call to action, asking the government and industry to recognise the importance of emerging digital technologies.

The report makes several key recommendations:

  1. elevate emerging digital technologies as a national science and innovation priority
  2. include research and innovation in emerging digital technologies in the 2021 Research Infrastructure Roadmap
  3. recognise emerging digital technologies as an independent growth sector.

It focused on digital technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), the internet of things (IoT), augmented and virtual reality, blockchain and 5G networks as innovations with the power to transform industries, but argued they’re still considered emerging tech because they’ve yet to realise their full commercial potential.

Meanwhile, a new wave of emerging digital tech is already on the way, such as self-driving vehicles, smart microgrids, 6G networks and quantum computing, bringing further disruption and transformation.

You can read more about the Australia’s Digital Future Report here.

So what does Australian startup leaders think of the analysis and Australia’s opportunities?

We asked three startup executive founders for their views. Here’s what they said:


Ian Yip

CEO of Avertro

Ian Yip, co-founder and CEO of Avertro

Australia must strive to be the best at producing technology. Not just, as Prime Minister Morrison once said, the ‘best at adopting’ technology.

Our digital future rests on having more Victor Dominellos and less Christian Porters. Minister Dominello is doing a great job of evangelising and embracing digital technology as the catalyst for NSW’s future and making it clear that he wants to be its champion. While there is undoubtedly a political angle, his profile helps make digital innovation the subject of dining table conversations. Actual digital literacy at senior levels of government will result in effective support for the ecosystem and deliver demonstrable outcomes instead of suffering from inaction due to the portfolio being used as a parking spot for ministers that need a reprieve from the consequences of their missteps.

Businesses and executives need to stop virtue signalling and start supporting sovereign innovation. The Australian way of ‘giving it a fair go’ must make it to desks and boardrooms. Business leaders must start acknowledging that Australian made includes digital technologies and take pride in being a local company’s first customer instead of its thousandth.

The Australian venture ecosystem needs to stop being conservative pattern matching robots that invest purely based on their past successes and instead learn to recognise actual innovation the way the Americans, Israelis, British, Europeans, and Chinese seem to have no trouble doing.


Jess Wilson

CEO of Good Things Foundation Australia

Jess Wilson

Jess Wilson, CEO at Good Things Foundation Australia

The emerging technologies of today, like AI and 5G networks, will become the backbone of our society tomorrow. It’s critical that the Australian Government invests not just in the growth and applications of the technologies themselves, but also in the skills everyday people need to use them.

Digital literacy sits at the core of innovation, yet less that 40% of Australians feel confident that they can keep up with tech. In particular, those in low socioeconomic households, in rural areas, women and First Nations people are more likely to be digitally excluded and are therefore locked out of contributing to the digital world.

Technology is our ticket to education and employment opportunities, particularly given 87% of jobs today require digital skills. Both affordable access to tech and the skills to use it confidently and safely are critical in ensuring that no one is denied a chance to contribute to or benefit from innovation.

To ensure the development of a digitally literate, highly skilled workforce, we need all levels of society, from government to community organisations and tech companies themselves, to make it a priority to ensure access, tools and skills are available to every Australian.


Alex Frolov

CEO and Co-Founder, HypeAuditor

Alex Frolov

Alex Frolov, CEO and founder of HypeAuditor

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way people interact with brands, and customer-centricity has come back to the fore. Customers are tuning out traditional marketing methods, and making purchases through a myriad of channels including on smartphones, tablets, social media and via influencers. Now more than ever before marketers are facing an avalanche of data, dealing with the complexities of real-time marketing, and navigating brands through the openness and transparency inherent to social media.

According to State of CMO 2021 report, the biggest functional roadblock to digital marketing transformation in Australia is information technology (25%), scoring above legal/risk/compliance (19%) and operations and supply chain (19%). While there is an acceleration in digital transformation across the board, marketing budgets are facing steep cuts.

If the past couple of years are anything to go by, event-triggered and real-time marketing will have the biggest impact on marketing activities. However, before organisations can fully unlock the potential of these technologies, they must first adopt and embrace predictive analytics and deliver personalised communications directly to consumers.