Australia needs a 'culture of innovation': Turnbull

Malcolm Turnbull says Australia needs more IT workers for the future

Malcolm Turnbull.

Malcolm Turnbull.

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has responded to a CEDA report which suggests that 40 per cent of jobs in Australia could be replaced by automation by saying that technology will be leveraged to create new goods and services.

CEDA’s report <i>Australia’s future workforce</i> suggests that five million jobs may be replaced by automation within the next 10 to 20 years.

“While we have seen automation replace some jobs in areas such as agriculture, mining and manufacturing, other areas where we are likely to see change are, for example, the health sector, which to date has remained largely untouched by technological change,” read the report.

“Creating a culture of innovation must be driven by the private sector, educational institutions and government. However, government must lead the way with clear and detailed education, innovation and technology policies that are funded adequately.”

Speaking at a CEDA event in Sydney today, Turnbull acknowledged that there has been a “huge shift” of jobs in traditional sectors. For example, only 3 per cent of the workforce is now in agriculture.

“The key to our future economic prosperity is contigent on our ability to counter some trends and emabrace others,” he said.

According to Turnbull, technology can be leveraged to create new goods and services, thereby creating new jobs.

“Take Netflix as an example. In less than a decade, they cannibalised their DVD business for streaming services. Many of those [Netflix] jobs would not exist if they had not cannibalised their old business,” he said.

“If you are not prepared to cannibalise your existing business model, don’t worry someone else will do it for you.”

Australia’s challenge is to ensure that enough people can take advantage of technology, he said.

While the importance of technology is growing, there has been a decline in students studying IT.

“We know that advances in computing and software are driving the latest wave of disruption but a recent report from the Australian Computer Society found that demand for ICT workers will increase by 100,000 people over the next six years. The number of IT graduates with a bachelor or post graduate quallifation almost halved between 2002 and 2013.”

This is a "clear market failure" and something we must urgently address, he said.

"We need to move beyond outdated stereotypes of a nerdy guy in a brown cardigan.”

According to Turnbull, IT skills such as coding should be embedded as part of the school curriculum from foundation to Year 10.

“The government is investing $3.5 million in a coding across the curriculum program to ensure all students gain exposure in coding in primary and secondary schools.”

He added that we are living in the “most exciting, revolutionary time” of human history.

“The winners will be those who embrace the future.”

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU, or take part in the Computerworld conversation on LinkedIn: Computerworld Australia

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