It was good to see that the Buget included some interesting ICT projects. However it failed again to bring some cohesion to the wide variety of projects. There is no holistic strategy behind it. Again the government failed to use the NBN as a unifying opportunity for a smart national approach.
The long-awaited space agency was given a kickstart as well as the planned upgrade of the Snowy Hydro scheme. But also here no indication and no vision for a holistic smart energy approach.
The $2.4 billion national infrastructure allocation includes supercomputers, world-class satellite imagery, more accurate GPS across Australia, upgrading the Bureau of Meteorology’s technology platform, a national space agency, and leading research in artificial intelligence.”
Sounds reasonable, but the amounts involved in many cases are not huge and will be spent over some years.
For instance, the Government will invest $29.9 million on artificial intelligence and machine learning. But that will spent over four years and has to support initiatives in digital health, digital agriculture, cybersecurity, energy, and mining.
The supercomputing mention refers to the new Pawsey supercomputing centre in Perth. Morrison said this investment will see Australia doubling its investment in supercomputing infrastructure to $70 million.
Satellite navigation is an interesting one. The Government says it will provide $160.9 million over four years from 2018-19 (and $39.2 million in ongoing funding from 2022-23) to improve the accuracy, integrity and availability of GPS satellite navigation.
This should provide positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) data with an accuracy of 3-5 centimetres to regional and metropolitan areas. Among other things this should enable self-steering machinery on farms, mining and construction sites, and future automated transport.
The proposed National Space Agency gets $41 million over four years, including $15 million for grants to “strategic space projects that generate employment and business opportunities for Australians.”
The upgrade of the Snowy Hydro scheme to help deal with the expected decline in coal-powered energy – scores a hefty $225 million over four years, along with $6.3 billion to acquire NSW and Victoria’s share of the existing facility..
But as mentioned, yet again it is a range of isolated initiatives. There is not a holistic smart strategy behind these ‘smart’ projects
For all of those initiatives, a good solid digital infrastructure is needed and the recognition of that could be used to unify all of those individual projects and bring them together into a national smart-country strategy.
The NBN would be an ideal unifier for this, but mentioning that would mean Canberra would have to acknowledge that the NBN is a good project after all …
Also missing is a strategy that would bring in the concept of smart cities – what role have local cities/towns/communities to play and what strategy will be used to empower them?
This week’s announcement of the second round of smart city funding is another missed opportunity to move beyond handouts and create a holistic/strategic approach.