The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation has estimated that digital innovation has the potential to deliver $315 billion in gross economic value to Australia over the next decade, with the possibility of generating a quarter of a million new jobs by 2025.
On a global scale, Australia’s fixed broadband speeds lag far behind comparable developed countries and the quality, reliability and affordability of data services across WA varies greatly.
It is important that WA recognises digital connectivity infrastructure as a strategic asset and a major enabler for economic development and social equity. Data indicates that the international competitiveness of Australia’s information and communications technology (ICT) sector is slipping. In 2019, Australia ranked seventh out of 16 countries across 24 indicators and, over 2 years, fell in rank in more than half of the indicators, including internet access, ecommerce and capabilities in the ICT sector. In terms of digital readiness (how well a jurisdiction is positioned to benefit from the internet economy), WA ranks fourth of all Australian jurisdictions on the Cisco Australian Digital Readiness Index.
Sector challenges and opportunities
Enhancing infrastructure assets through digitisation will improve system efficiency that can create competitive advantage and jobs.
With WA’s size and low population density in many regions limits, the commercial viability of service delivery contributes to a digital divide between metropolitan, regional and remote areas.
Many regional and remote areas experience poor-quality mobile network coverage, limited choice of providers and higher‑cost broadband services. Emerging technologies, such as low earth orbit satellites, may result in wider access to high-speed broadband services in regional WA.
As infrastructure systems become more reliant on digital technology to operate, the risk of cyberattack also increases. State-owned and regulated digital infrastructure systems need to be protected with effective and clear cybersecurity standards.
Outdated ICT systems operating within government can create limitations for service delivery and increase risk, which is impacting its digital readiness. The WA Government needs to be agile in its governance, planning and decision-making to keep pace with demand and technological change.
Digitising infrastructure creates a range of benefits including better business outcomes, improved safety, greater customer engagement and experience, operating efficiencies, opportunities for new revenue streams and better lifecycle management. New infrastructure should be designed and built in line with a digital-first approach. Robust privacy frameworks, data sharing and management practices, and digital skills are needed.
Science and technology also improves the productivity, efficiency and competitiveness of the economy. In WA, the approach to research infrastructure investment has often been ad hoc. Infrastructure condition and the risks from its decline are also unclear. The WA Government needs to consider the research infrastructure needs for economic diversification, agency service delivery, environmental protection and community wellbeing.
In December 2020, the East Metropolitan Health Service commenced HIVE (Health in a virtual environment), an inpatient remote monitoring service. HIVE is staffed by clinical experts and provides continuous 24/7 monitoring of vulnerable patients at Royal Perth and Armadale hospitals. For further information, refer to https://emhs.health.wa.gov.au/Hospitals-and-Services/Services/HIVE