Reflecting recent history, the advent of personal computers in the 1980s destroyed many jobs that involved routine and repetitive tasks, but in return underpinned the growth of a global information technology industry that has itself spawned new industries and new jobs.

History has shown that despite our worse fears, technology and automation surprises us with new opportunities for productivity, growth and prosperity. While not everyone has benefited to the same extent by technological developments, overall citizens across the world have been empowered by the democratisation of information and improvements to living standards that information and communications technologies and now digital technologies deliver.

The notion that there’s only a finite amount of work, and that advances in technology reduces that notional limit, have clearly proved to be unfounded. Changes in demographics and in our socio-economic and socio-political environment, coupled with the need for growth, the phenomenon that is competition and man’s ingenuity, have combined over centuries to constantly evolve jobs and the nature of work and the labour market – mostly for the better.

Technological progress is a fundamental driver of productivity growth and increased living standards in Australia. Amongst other things, digital technology has increased the productivity of workers and businesses, improved the quality of products and services, and reduced prices. Over the next three years, the contribution of digital technologies to the Australian economy is forecast to be 7% of Australia’s GDP. Automation alone has the potential to significantly boost Australia’s productivity and national income.

Despite Australia’s innovation narrative not resonating in the context of the 2016 federal election, 99% of Australians believe that innovation and the development of new technology is important to Australia’s future prosperity.

However, confidence in Australia’s performance in generating and adapting new technologies is lukewarm, and claims that Australia is typically a leader in new technology adoption are not supported. 44% of Australians believe that government, businesses and consumers are falling behind compared to other developed countries in how quickly we innovate and generate new technologies.

A clear strategy is needed for preparing for the future as well as specific policy responses to issues, such as the adjustment and re-employment of workers who are displaced; concerns about digital exclusion; and more broadly an understanding of what skills will be required and how they will be developed. Anticipating new opportunities, and the jobs that may emerge and the skills needed, positions us well to respond now to what lies ahead.

Make sure you’re part of this important discussion! Register for our Navigating Technology and the Jobs of the Future Summit in Canberra, 22 March. Secure your early bird discount by end of day TODAY, Wednesday, 7 February!