Australia is facing a shortage of tech employees in the near future.

According to the Australian Computer Society’s Digital Pulse, we will need 100,000 more tech workers by 2024.

But what is particularly concerning is that people have not been entering the field at an accordingly appropriate rate. Technology subject enrolments in the VET sector have actually declined in recent years.

ACS president Yohan Ramasundara called for the problem to be fixed urgently.

“For Australia to be a competitive player in the world economy, our policymakers, businesses, workers and communities need to work better together to address the challenges of technology-related skills, investment and collaboration,” he said.

But Ramasundara did concede that this was “a huge challenge”.

The report came only a month after the Australian Computer Society completed a network of east coast technology hubs with the opening of a centre in Melbourne. This followed its two hubs in Sydney and Brisbane — the latter came through the takeover of River City Labs.

When Ramasundara opened the Melbourne hub he said there was no reason why Australia could not achieve feats on par with American FAANG (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google) stocks.

“Australia needs to elevate our tech heroes to the status of our sporting greats,” he said.

“We need to inspire the next generation, invest in those having a go now and spend more on R&D. With a clear national vision, there is no reason why our prosperity cannot be sustained.”

Money, money, money

If workers were to shift, the ACS report predicted each employee could benefit by more than $11,000 per year. But even those who did not move into tech would benefit.

The digital sector will contribute 40 per cent more to GDP by 2023 and this equates to an extra $2,500 per person in Australia.

Deloitte Access Economics partner John O’Mahony noted the benefits would not just be in the form of higher pay packets.

He mentioned better quality services, including in healthcare and education, as well as intrinsic benefits such as shorter commute times and increased consumer choice.

Cutting the red tape

The report suggested four policy changes that would help the digital landscape.

First, to reassess the taxes placed on digital investment. A limited-time tax concession for companies making digital investments is one, yet some solutions may work better customised including in Australia’s early stage investment scheme.

Second, change accounting policies to recognise data as a company asset and not just among tech businesses.

The ACS argued this would help businesses access finance easier by appearing more valuable. But this would not just be a “pump up”, the report argued that data was an asset as a resource being used to generate company value.

Third, to become more data-centric, something which is easier said than done. One suggestion made by the report is considering what societal outcomes people value then linking to measurable factors and using data to define and answer questions. The government’s data is $25 billion per annum according to estimates.

Finally, it called for spillover effects such as investment in projects. Commonwealth departments already spend around $6 billion per year on information and communications technology. In addition to the companies benefiting, so could the government.