Date:
4 August 2022
Author:
Phillipa Martin

CSIRO’s Our Future World report

At the end of last month, the CSIRO released Our Future World, a once-a-decade report that looks at future global megatrends. The report focuses on 7 global trends that provide both challenges and opportunities.

View transcript of CSIRO’s Chief Executive Dr Larry Marshall’s speech

The 7 global megatrends

The 7 megatrends are:

  1. Adapting to a changing climate
  2. Leaner, cleaner and greener
  3. The escalating health imperative
  4. Geopolitical shifts
  5. Diving into digital
  6. Increasingly autonomous
  7. Unlocking the human dimension

While many of these areas intersect with digital transformation in government (DTIG), in this DTIG we wanted to focus on ‘diving into digital’ and ‘increasingly autonomous’ as these 2 megatrends are the most closely related to digital transformation.

Diving into digital

Digital transformation has surged recently (partly due to COVID) and the CSIRO has identified that this rapid progress will continue. Some specific areas the report highlights are:

  • Industry 4.0 technologies: Examples cited include high-performance computing, AI, machine learning, the Internet of Things (IoT) and robotics. Note: Industry 4.0 references the fourth industrial revolution.

  • Data-driven organisations: Organisations are realising the value of data and big data, however there’s room for more Australian organisations to focus on data and data-driven decision-making.

  • Digital health: COVID saw a significant rise in digital health. This trend is set to continue but needs to be refined to help overcome potential challenges.

  • Digital inclusion: Digital inclusion in Australia has improved, however work still needs to be done in this area for at-risk people.

  • Digital workers: According to the report, Australia needs an extra 6.5 million digital workers by 2025! In general, digital skills training is urgently needed.

Increasingly autonomous

There has also been a significant increase in what software and machines can do, driven by artificial intelligence (AI) and related tech. Some specific areas the report highlights are:

  • AI research: Increasing research into AI reflects the growing size of the AI market globally. This market represents a significant opportunity for Australia.

  • AI advances: AI advances in areas such as image recognition and language processing have opened up AI applications.

  • New discoveries: AI is also leading to new discoveries. The CSIRO report mentions Google’s DeepMind AlphaFold as an example.

  • AI applications: As AI advances, more applications unfold. Organisations have been working on a variety of applications, including machine learning to predict wildfire spread (CSIRO), a flight-planning system (Qantas) and a shark spotting system (Ripper Corp and the University of Technology Sydney).

  • Declining research and development (R&D) spending in Australia: Globally, most countries are spending more on R&D as a share of gross domestic product (GDP). However, Australia’s spending has declined. Australia needs to keep pace with global trends.

  • AI ethics: AI needs public acceptance to be successful, and part of that is ensuring a strong ethical framework.

Salsa Digital’s take

The CSIRO’s Our Future World report provides an insight into the global megatrends that will shape Australia. It provides an interesting window into the future for our country, and the world. Australia has many opportunities to make the most of technology and enable digital transformation for industry and citizens. We’re focused on this through various policies and action plans (e.g. Australia’s AI Action Plan and Digital Economy Strategy). However, work needs to continue across these areas (and others) to make sure we make the most of tech opportunities for Australia and its citizens.