Australia must develop a national artificial intelligence (AI) strategy and significantly increase funding for domestic AI capability, or it risks losing control of this technology to foreign commercial and national interests—according to a statement published today by fourteen of the country’s leading experts in AI and robotics.
The Kingston AI Group, which includes professors from eight universities, formed in September last year to plan how to better coordinate Australia’s national research and education strategies so that the country can maximise its benefit from rapidly emerging AI technology.
The statement’s authors are calling for an integrated national strategy to grow the domestic education-to-industry AI talent pipeline and use AI as a productivity enhancer to support economic growth and the creation of higher-paying jobs.
But the group warns that Australia is at risk of experiencing a significant shortfall in AI skills, with the CSIRO estimating that Australian industry will need up to 161,000 new specialist AI workers by 2030.
“A failure to deliver the AI workforce Australia needs will harm our future economic growth, shrink our economic complexity, and weaken our sovereign control in key industry sectors,” the authors say. “If done strategically, a major investment would result in Australia becoming one of the leading countries in AI.”
The group says that Australia needs to increase AI skills and improve AI literacy at all levels, and that the university sector must play a leading role in producing “a critical mass of AI experts” to drive the growth of advanced technology industries.
Professor Simon Lucey, director of the Australian Institute for Machine Learning at the University of Adelaide, believes that while recent enthusiasm for new AI technologies like ChatGPT is an encouraging sign, businesses and governments must not rely solely on purchasing AI products from international suppliers.
“If we don’t build our own AI, the risk for Australian industries is that they’ll be disrupted in the same way that Uber disrupted the taxi industry.Australians will wind up working in local AI-enabled jobs for Australian customers, but all the profits will go overseas,” Professor Lucey said.
“Australia has the opportunity to be a global leader in developing and adopting trusted, secure and responsible AI — this requires increased investment in Australian research in AI to build a pipeline of graduates to enter Australia’s AI workforce to address the skills gap and drive economic growth.” added Professor Joanna Batstone, Director of the Monash Data Futures Institute, Monash University.
“We need our own national AI to support our own national industries. Australia’s future economic prosperity will depend on whether we succeed or fail in embracing the AI revolution. The question for Australian industries is whether to use AI to improve productivity, or to be out-competed by those who do.”
said Professor Anton van den Hengel, Director of the Centre for Augmented Reasoning, The University of Adelaide.
“We’ve seen time and time again that when Australian fundamental research is resourced properly, it empowers the local technology development ecosystem and our ability to understand and use that tech to its maximum potential. Resourcing AI research will lead to more homegrown AI tech development and a better understanding and embracing of this transformative technology.” contributed Professor Michael Milford, Joint Director of the QUT Centre for Robotics, Queensland University of Technology.
“These are challenging economic and geopolitical times, but one of the most promising developments is the emergence of AI. Australia has an opportunity to invest strategically in this future, to ensure our children inherit a safer and more prosperous country.” concluded Professor Toby Walsh, Chief Scientist of the UNSW Artificial Intelligence Institute, The University of New South Wales.