auDA - .au Domain Administration Ltd.

02/15/2024 | News release | Distributed by Public on 02/14/2024 18:25

2024 Technology Policy Forecast - Key trends to watch

As 2024 shifts into gear, the year promises to hold exciting developments in tech and digital policy in Australia. To discuss what's ahead, auDA hosted a wide-ranging discussion panel on 7 February, covering tech and digital policy trends for the coming year. We were joined by tech policy experts:

  • Simon Bush, CEO, Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA)
  • Kate Bower, Fellow, UTS Human Technology Institute and Consumer Data Advocate, CHOICE
  • Frank Zeichner, CEO, IoT Alliance Australia.

The panel covered a range of topics - including research from auDA's 2023 Digital Lives of Australians and Atlas of Australia Online 2023 reports - with three focus areas emerging.

Clearer governance and action on AI

As artificial intelligence (AI) has become more deeply embedded in people's lives, how it's used, and for what purpose, has become an increasingly important topic.

auDA's Digital Lives of Australians report, released late last year, found that Australian consumers hold strong expectations that businesses using AI applications must do so responsibly and transparently. In addition, Australian consumers and small businesses reported they would feel more comfortable with AI if there were stronger regulatory safeguards in place.

Kate Bower recognises the need for regulatory and legislative reform on AI. "The external environment has massively shifted … two years ago [consumers] just weren't interested in [AI]. They didn't understand how it affected their lives, now they're very concerned about it," she said.

Kate went on to note there's been a lot of activity in tech policy over recent years, including discussions, actions plans and reports. Her prediction - and hope - for 2024 is that this work translates into legislation that passes Parliament and starts improving areas of concern for consumers.

This sentiment was echoed by Simon Bush who said getting the regulatory guardrails right is important to support consumer confidence. Simon also hopes to see faster government responses to tech regulation, and government funding to support AI take-up by small and medium businesses in 2024 to boost productivity.

Frank Zeichner added that he believes there's been a shift in conversation and the public discourse on AI to transparency and fairness, which is a positive sign for the future.

Need for more data, data security and standards

Data underpins much of how our modern economy and society runs.

Frank highlighted that "we need more data to run a new economy … over the next 10, 20, 30 years, and we're going to need to be a lot safer about how we use it." According to Frank, this is particularly true when it comes to sustainability and tackling climate change, including climate related financial disclosures. These processes, he said, "require way better data to drive a low-carbon economy. You can't do it on generalisations."

Frank added that "data provenance for industry is fundamental." As data collection grows, including from Internet of Things devices, sensors and AI applications, data provenance becomes much a bigger question.

Kate noted that people are engaging with data in every aspect of their lives but there is still progress to be made on privacy and security to address public concerns. Simon added that for companies "personalised data has gone from digital gold rush … through to a digital liability". While data can be valuable for companies, they must store it securely and in line with privacy legislation to keep consumers and their own business data secure.

Panellists agreed that the Privacy Act review has been long-awaited but an important step to modernise privacy laws, with Simon adding the AIIA is incredibly supportive of strengthening the Act.

Greater adoption and collaboration from government, tying tech developments to productivity

Across the board, all three panellists called for greater collaboration between industry and government departments at federal, state and local levels.

Kate noted there needs to be "a more coordinated and cohesive response from government … tech policy cuts across almost every portfolio". She later added that we "really need to start thinking more creatively about how we do government policy … to meet the needs of citizens and consumers."

Simon made a case for industry to ensure proposals are strongly linked to productivity outcomes to gain government support, adding that there needs to be "a better way" when it comes to coordination between government departments.

This kind of policy coherence and multi-stakeholder collaboration is something auDA believes is critical to building a free, open, secure and global internet, and one we advocate for in our Public Policy Agenda, to ensure policy keeps pace with technology changes impacting the digital lives of Australians.

Watch the full webinar to learn more, and keep an eye out for our next auDA event.