The Australian government has dedicated nearly $1.2 billion of the federal budget to its Digital Economy Strategy. The initiative covers artificial intelligence, digital skills, SME digitalisation, data, emerging aviation technology and investment incentives.

We look at some of the biggest tech winners set to benefit from the 2021 federal budget.


Australia’s gaming industry was one of few industries that managed to grow during the pandemic. With people looking for alternative forms of entertainment during lockdown periods, esports and video gaming prospered. According to PwC, the gaming industry grew to $3.4 billion in 2020 – a 6 percent increase from 2019.

In order to attract a slice of the $250 billion global game market to Australia, the government announced a 30 percent refundable Digital Games Tax Offset as part of the federal budget. In order to receive the offset, companies have to spend a minimum of $500 000 on “qualifying Australian games expenditure.” However, what qualifies is still being worked out through consultation with industry leaders, and the criteria will be released in mid-2021.

The move is being celebrated by the Australian gaming industry, a sector that has been calling for investment and support for years.

“The Government’s new investment commitment today will do many things. It will spur the creation of brand-new Australian game development studios, give existing Australian studios the support they need to take on ambitious new projects and accelerate their growth, plus attract further blockbuster AAA studios to Australia, all of which will create game development jobs in every state,”

Ron Curry – CEO of Interactive Games & Entertainment Association (IGEA)

Artificial intelligence (AI)

A big-ticket item in the Digital Economy Strategy is AI, with a $124.2 million to be split over multiple initiatives that compromise the government’s Artificial Intelligence Action Plan. This includes:

  • $53.5 million to create the National Artificial Intelligence Centre that will be housed within CSIRO’s Data 61. The centre will fund projects that foster the business adoption (mainly SME uptake) of AI technologies and act as a hub for talent, knowledge and tools around AI.
  • $33.7 million to support pilot projects that have AI-based solutions for national challenges. What qualifies has not yet been released but the projects will see Australian businesses partner with the government.
  • $24.7 million for the Next Generation AI Graduates Program that aims to train up to 234 Australian-based AI specialists through post-graduate national scholarships. This initiative is designed to increase the supply of highly skilled AI specialists that are available to Australian businesses in order to assist them with the adoption of new technologies.
  • $12 million in grants to develop AI solutions that address local and regional problems.

These initiatives are designed to build Australia’s AI capabilities and support the overarching goals of the action plan, which include job creation, enhancing industry competitiveness and improving life quality.

myGov and My Health Record users

The government is investing $501.9 million back into its own digital services. The near 20 million Australians that use myGov to access government services like the ATO, Centrelink, Medicare and the NDIS will see $200.1 million invested into streamlining their user experience.

Enhancements to the portal include an “advanced service dashboard” with improved document upload functionality – based on user preferences and interactions. The government claims the new interface will save users “time and hassle” by enabling them to view and manage their payments, debts, claim status and activities in one place. A digital assistant and chat functionality will also be added to help Australians find the services that meet their needs.

The time saved alone from these enhancements is estimated to generate benefits across the economy totalling $3.6 billion over 10 years.

The government will be dedicating $301.8 million to “building the next wave of My Health Record”.

According to the digital economy website, the funding will be used on two key initiatives.

The first will enable Australians to view their COVID-19 test results and immunisation status, as well as receiving notifications about their COVID-19 vaccinations directly from their device.

The second gives the elderly the option of connecting their My Health Record with their residential aged care facility. This is done with the aim of improving medication management and transitions of care between facilities.

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