Google has pledged to invest US$1 billion for tech research and development in Australia over the next five years. The deal includes plans to set up a new Google Research Australia lab in Sydney, which will be used for AI and quantum computing research.
According to Mel Silva, Managing Director for Google Australia and New Zealand, Google’s Digital Future Initiative will focus on three key areas. The first area is focused on building the foundations of the digital economy. Google will invest in the infrastructure needed to help Australians make the most of technology, enabling Australian businesses to have a secure and robust platform for business transformation, as well as become more productive and quickly respond to ever-changing customer needs.
The second focus will be on fostering Australia-made technology and talent, through the launch of the lab. Google will partner with the research community across the country and other Google Research hubs, to build a team of local researchers and engineers to explore ways AI and machine learning can help tackle issues that are important in Australia and around the world.
The third focus will be partnering to solve big challenges. Mel pointed out that Google is working with Australian organizations to apply new technology solutions to urgent challenges faced today, from bushfires to mental health and cancer diagnosis. Understanding that the best and most creative solutions often come from those that are on the ground and closest to the issues and needs of their communities, partnerships are at the heart of the Digital Future Initiative.
“The Digital Future Initiative is an investment in the extraordinary talent and creativity of Australians. It’s about ensuring every Australian has access to technology to realize their potential. It’s about laying foundations for a strong digital economy that can compete globally and support good jobs locally. And continuing Australia’s proud record of world-first innovation, harnessing technology to solve big challenges and create new opportunities for decades ahead,” added Mel.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who attended the event and officially opened Google’s new Australian headquarters in Sydney said the initiative is expected to create some 6000 jobs and support an additional 28000 and is also a vote of confidence to the country’s digital economy strategy.
AI research and development in Australia have been lagging behind other nations in recent times with a lack of infrastructure and research facilities a supposed reason for it. A few days after Google’s announcement, Morrison also announced a new plan to protect and promote technologies critical to the national interest, such as AI and quantum computing. The focus will be on nine critical technologies in a list of 63, which is part of the country’s bid to China’s emerging dominance in key strategic fields.
Interestingly, Google’s announcement comes at a time whereby US tech giants continue to face criticism from Australian lawmakers. In fact, Google Australia threatened to block the search engine in the country after they were requested to pay local news publishers for content that gets shared on their platforms. Australia became the first country in the world whereby big tech companies like Google and Meta have to pay news publishers for news content on their platforms.
While a settlement was eventually reached, the entire exercise has served as a wake-up call for large tech companies, not only in Australia but globally as well. Since then, Google has already agreed to pay with several news outlets globally, including a recent deal with French international news agency, AFP.