Microsoft has announced a $5 billion investment into Australia’s digital economy through the creation of a ‘cyber shield’. The American computer giant will spend the money over two years in an effort to massively increase the country’s digital capabilities.
Overnight, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Microsoft President Brad Smith made the announcement in Washington DC on the first day of the PM’s visit to the US.
“This is a major investment in the skills and workers of the future,” Albanese said in a press conference.
“We need to provide the skills to enable Australians to succeed in the jobs of the future.”
Microsoft will spend the money on infrastructure to boost artificial intelligence capabilities. This means cloud computing and server expansions that enable generative AI programs, like ChatGPT, to run more efficiently. This means an increase in local data centres from 20 to 29, with new sites in Melbourne, Sydney, and Canberra.
In addition, partnership programmes with TAFE NSW will be funded to train 200 people in the first few years and an extra 300,000 over the coming years in digital skills.
“We need to invest in infrastructure but we also need to invest in our human capital to lift it up as well. And giving people skills will have an enormous benefit,” Albanese said.
Microsoft will also be partnering with the Australian Signals Directorate – Australia’s federal military cyber security body – to “improve joint capability” in identifying, preventing and responding to cyber threats.
Although the emphasis here is on Microsoft’s investment, Albanese is hoping this defence partnership will lock down further support for the AUKUS deal which has gone somewhat quiet over the past few months. Republicans in the US have been questioning the deal to supply Australia with nuclear-powered submarines.
Steven Worrall, Managing Director of Microsoft Australia and New Zealand, said that the company’s position sees it managing “65 trillion” signals across its network each day.
“That gives us a deep understanding of the nature of cyber security threats that we see emerging in Australia.
“This partnership will enable the sharing of that information in an appropriate way to help bolster and complement what Australia is doing today already”.
The PM denied that the deal was about countering the threat of China and was instead bout boosting Australia’s productivity.
Microsoft recently co-authored a report into generative AI which said that the Australian economy could grow by $115 billion per year by 2030 if the technology was quickly adopted.