Google brought out the big guns yesterday, announcing the Digital Future Initiative – a $1 billion five-year commitment to strengthen digital infrastructure, develop Australian technology and talent and solve local and global challenges.

This comes after the tech giant threatened to remove its search engine from the country in January after proposed new content regulations to share royalties with news publishers.

But it seems like Google and the Federal Government have come to an agreement, with the new initiative expected to support a total of 6,529 direct jobs and 28,057 total jobs, representing $1.259 billion in direct investment and $6.716 billion in total economic impact.

“Looking ahead, we want to help Australia shape the next wave of innovations, and bring the benefits of technology to more people,” Google CEO Sundar Pichai said.

“We believe a strong digital future is one where everyone has access to technology and the skills to use it, where the internet economy fulfills its immense potential, and Australia’s long tradition of innovation can grow and thrive.

“We look forward to working together as Australia builds that future, and we can’t wait to be part of it.”

The investment will focus on three areas:

  • Developing Australia’s digital infrastructure, focused on cloud computing which is helping Australian companies innovate and grow in every part of the economy;
  • Broadening the opportunity for local tech talent — including the launch of Google Research Australia, which will build a team of local researchers and engineers to help tackle important issues, creating jobs and providing education and training; and
  • Creating new technology partnerships to help solve Australian and global challenges, including working with the CSIRO team to explore clean energy and protecting the Great Barrier Reef, and with Macquarie University to advance quantum computing.


Fostering Australian tech and talent

Google Australia and New Zealand managing director Mel Silva said Google Research aims to build “a team of local researchers and engineers to explore ways AI and machine learning can help tackle issues that are important in Australia and around the world.”

“Research is the engine that drives innovation at Google. It helps us problem solve, develop new products and services, and enables our brightest minds to make ground-breaking discoveries,” she said.

“Right now, Google is working with Australian organisations to apply new technology solutions to urgent challenges we face today, from bushfires to mental health and cancer diagnosis.

“We know that the best and most creative solutions often come from those that are on ground and closest to the issues and needs of their communities. This is why partnerships are at the heart of the Digital Future Initiative.

“As part of our overall commitment, we’re investing in a multi-million dollar partnership with Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, to tackle challenges like natural hazard management, energy and protecting our precious Great Barrier Reef.”

$1 billion vote of confidence

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said it’s a $1 billion vote of confidence in our digital economy strategy.

“Our challenge as we emerge from this pandemic in a very challenging world is to secure Australia’s economic recovery,” he said.

“That is the challenge we face as we move into 2022, and Australia’s digital strategy is central to securing that recovery.

“Today’s announcement by Google demonstrates that we are taking the right approach, and it recognises the digital leadership that is necessary for Australia to emerge as a top digital economy by 2030, not only in the role the government needs to play in enabling and supporting, but more importantly, recognising that it is great private capital investors and entrepreneurs that actually will drive this change.

“Private capital investment, entrepreneurship, collaborating with the world’s best scientists and researchers and innovators. That’s what solves the problems, not taxes and regulation.”

Top 10 digital economy by 2030

The Prime Minister said that increased digitisation could add some $90 billion to our economy and create some 250,000 new jobs.

“It’s just not people in high tech labs like the one which is excitedly being created here. It is all across the economy in all fields, from the classroom, out to the bush into our major cities,” he said.

“The newly formed Tech Council of Australia has estimated that technology is our third biggest sector after mining and financial services puts it in some perspective, and this sector is growing four times faster than the rest of our economy.

“We’re building an ecosystem that invests in the digital literacy skills of our workforce that grows our R&D investment, is a magnet for engineers and scientists and technologists and removes the barriers to innovation because we either accelerate or we get left behind.

“Our digital economy strategy is about Australia becoming the top 10 digital economy by 2030.

“Today’s announcement by Google is a fantastic announcement for Australia that will make a major contribution to achieving our goal.”