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Technology should ‘not be feared’

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Many people see technology as something threatening, but they should not be concerned, says Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews.

Speaking at the recent Data61 Live event in Sydney, Ms Andrews said technology is something that will help us all in our everyday lives.

“Our job is to make sure that that technology is understandable to as many people as possible,” she told an audience that included many of Australia’s leading researchers.

Ms Andrews, a former mechanical engineer, admits not everyone sees technology as exciting.

“Many people can see technology as something that's quite threatening, particularly when they see technology as potentially taking their jobs.

“My entire life, even before my work as an engineer, I’ve been really just focused around technology and how exciting I found technology to be.”

Ms Andrews says robotics is a key part of Australia’s skills and expertise.

“What we're doing from Tasmania to support our scientists and other workers in Antarctica, quite frankly, is second to none globally.

“All of those things are going to help us with the space race. And what it does is position Australia as an emerging country for space expertise. But that's got to be backed in by technology.”

Data holds the key

The work done by CSIRO and Data61 is vitally important to help grow and develop Australian industry, she said. And much of that work is data driven.

At the recent G20 summit in Japan, Ms Andrews said it was significant that the digital economy ministers met for the first time with trade ministers.

“There was a general acceptance across the G20 countries that the digital economy, technology, artificial intelligence and data were going to be driving our economies for the future. And that there were a lot of opportunities there, but there were some fairly clear risks in that.”

Ms Andrews said Australia has an opportunity to lead in the digital economy – particularly with data.

We need to look at issues surrounding artificial intelligence and ethics, and data and how it is driving artificial intelligence, she said.

“As an engineer I like data. I like data to be high integrity and I like data to be accurate, particularly when I'm using it for my decision making.

“We need to make sure that if we are relying on data for decision making, that it has been proven, that it is correct. But importantly, that the data adapts as further decisions are made.”

Unique capability

Ms Andrews says it’s important for Australia to look at artificial intelligence as it we start to build our systems.

“We do have some pretty unique capability here in Australia.

“What's important is that we don't try and be all things to all people – that we look where our expertise is and that we try and extend our capability even further.”

The federal government is committed to supporting the technology sector, she said.

“We are committed to making sure that we build an economy, that we improve productivity and that we create jobs. And every single thing that you see me do will be with those objectives in mind.”

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