Aussie tech industry reacts to Budget 2021-22

Aussie tech industry reacts to Budget 2021-22

Industry figures point to areas of concern in the Budget, especially within cyber security.

Credit: ID 55578362 © Victor Diola Jr | Dreamstime

Meanwhile, EFEX CEO Nick Sheehan noted that it would be interesting to see if the support regarding the 170,000 new apprentices or trainees as part of the COVID-19 economic recovery plan pertaining to technology and small business in regional Australia. 

“We need to be teaching young adults skills such as writing code, networking and IT infrastructure capability, cloud computing and cyber security, all of which are essential to help grow and support small businesses,” Sheehan said. 

“We have a plethora of talent in regional Australia, yet it’s being under-utilised. We need to decentralise skills so that anyone in Australia, irrespective of where they live and their access to metropolitan cities, can explore the possibility of a career in technology,” he added. 

Another big ticket item covered in the Budget was cyber security, with the government making a $43.8 million pledged to expand the Cyber Security Skills Partnership Innovation Fund.  

According to the government, this will create a pipeline of cyber security professionals that can meet growing demand for cyber jobs across the Australian economy.  

It should come as little surprise that the issue of cyber security drew plenty of responses from the local tech community, with Pieter Danhieux, co-founder and CEO of Secure Code Warrior, lamenting that it was unfortunate to see that the government did not announce further investment in cyber security services in government, data centres and telecommunications networks.   

“It was my hope that they would use the funding to help prevent incidents such as costly and damaging supply-chain attacks, not unlike those that happened in Service NSW or RBNZ [Reserve Bank of New Zealand],” Danhieux said.  

“What we need is something similar to US President Joe Biden's recent multi-billion-dollar cyber security support plan, as well as the appointment of key members of the cabinet to cyber security and cyber defence; it would be a huge win for our online safety, as well as support the local cyber security industry, and is a clear signal that it is a serious consideration as we move forward as a future-focused nation. 

“Therefore, it is troubling that we still don’t have a dedicated cabinet role for cyber security in Australia, and as such, even with funding, it is easy to be ‘out of sight, out of mind’. In the wake of nation-state cyber attacks and unprecedented access to our sensitive information if a data breach is successful, this is a lax approach that maintains a status quo that has been ineffective to date,” he added. 

According to Jason Baden, A/NZ regional vice president at F5, the Budget has delivered positive steps forward, but more needed to be done.  

“We’ve seen a $42.4 million investment to improve security arrangements for critical infrastructure and to assist critical infrastructure owners and operators respond to significant cyber attacks,” Baden said.  

“Right now, however, public sector agencies need to take a proactive approach to security, leaning into talent, automation, AI, and machine learning to deliver adaptable, high-performing and secure applications that are a bedrock of today’s remote workforce. 

“It’s positive to see a $31.7 million investment over four years to enhance the security of Australia's mobile networks. However, it merely paves the way for organisations to double down on exploiting the benefits of 5G, and soon edge computing, and invest in the right technology to ensure full visibility of their network,” he added. 

Baden also said that it was encouraging to see the government investing $1.2 billion into the Digital Economy Strategy, part of which included $54 million for a National Artificial Intelligence (AI) Centre to drive business adoption of AI technologies by coordinating Australia's AI expertise and capabilities. 

However, the right technology mix would be crucial to making this strategy succeed. 

“Australian business stands to gain significantly from the adoption of new technologies including AI as, not only is AI efficient in app security, but without the right technology businesses struggle to unlock the full value of application insights to inform the critical decision-making necessary to adapt to rising customer expectations,” Baden said. 

For Raymond Maisano, head of A/NZ at Cloudflare, in one of the biggest spending Budgets the country seen in almost a decade, the overall investment in cyber security was disappointing.  

“The bolstering of Defence budgets and investments in education are great to see, but the Budget really doesn’t address what the government said was such an immediate need,” Maisano said.  

“On June 18, 2020, we heard Scott Morrison raise the alarm bells of Australia being attacked by a ‘sophisticated, state-based cyber actor. Yet here we are, nearly 12 months on, and no new funding has been allocated to help improve the cyber security resilience or posture of our nation. 

“The high-profile attacks of the last 12 months on the likes of the New Zealand Stock Exchange, Nine Entertainment Co., Bluescope Steel, UnitingCare, and even the Australian Parliament have not been enough to even solicit tax relief for businesses investing in cyber resilience. 

“Australia is a small portion of the world’s population, yet we are being hit by a relatively bigger share of cyber attacks. Government efforts to control cyber attacks can help to decrease the number of attacks—we’ve seen this in recent years with the likes of the Obama administration,” he added. 

In the same breath, Maisano suggested that it should be up to the industry to help usher in the next generation of cyber security experts to help protect Australians now and into the future.  

“Investing in education through the cyber security innovation fund is exactly where the Government needed to start to address Australia’s growing cyber security skill gap,” Maisano said. “However, the technology industry won’t start to see the benefits of this for five to 15 years, so it’s on the industry to step up and take ownership of bringing in new talent to foster the new generation of cyber security experts.” 

Additionally, Barracuda Asia Pacific sales engineer manager Mark Lukie, suggested that although the vendor welcomed the government investments in AI technologies to help protect Australian businesses and government online services, he wanted to see more support at the very base levels of industry and education. 

“With more and more attacks targeting digital assets such as web applications it is imperative businesses can protect themselves against evolving threats,” Lukie said. “We would like to see security being taught at a grassroots level with cyber security and awareness training becoming part of curriculums to educate students and prepare them to enter the workforce whilst protecting their online presence.  

“Investments in connectivity in regional areas will allow smaller business access to corporate environments in a more resilient and secure way by employing SD-WAN technologies and combining security at the branch,” he added. 

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