The Federal government has announced a $124.1 million project to develop artificial intelligence (AI) technologies within Australia as part of Australia’s AI Action Plan.
The Action Plan estimates that AI could contribute $20 trillion to the global economy by 2030. To harvest a share of this potential value, the Federal government plans to harness the country’s collective capabilities and resources so that we become early adopters of, and major contributors to, AI technology.
Of the total budgetary commitment, $53.8 million has been dedicated to opening a National AI Centre and four corresponding Digital Capability Centres to coordinate AI expertise and capabilities across the nation.
The Action Plan also commits $24.7 million to an AI Graduates Program and $22.6 million for The Next Generation Emerging Technology Graduates Program. These Programs aim to increase Australia’s specialist talent pool by providing scholarships and encouraging new entrants to the field.
$33.7 million of the funding will go towards supporting Australian businesses by piloting projects to deliver AI-based solutions to national challenges. A further $12 million will be used to create AI job opportunities in regional areas by co-funding up to 36 competitive grants for companies to develop AI-based solutions to local or national challenges.
The Action Plan outlines the impacts that AI has already had on Australian society and industries, including:
- reducing fatigue-related trucking accidents by more than 90%
- identifying 15% more water and sewage defects
- fighting bushfires
- freeing up hospital beds through increased remote services
- enabling AI autonomous plastic recycling sorting
- protecting natural resources and wildlife through automated monitoring of precious habitats.
This funding will no doubt stir up broader AI activity in Australia. However, to really stimulate the AI industry in Australia, all jurisdictions will need to start buying AI solutions as winning government business will be vital to establishing the nascent industry. As small to medium enterprises start to develop because of this stimulus funding, current suppliers to government should be contemplating how and where they involve such SMEs when responding to government tenders. The push for growth of AI innovation in regional areas also demonstrates that the government is keen to address the ‘digital divide’ where the regions are being left behind digitally, compared to the cities.