Technology is changing the way we live, work and interact faster than ever. New technologies are proliferating, widening the scope of economic transformation and disrupting social, legal and political systems.
The Indo-Pacific region is undergoing the most significant shift in strategic alignment in the modern era. Factors such as increasing competition between major powers, and the adoption and integration of technology-enabled grey zone activities into statecraft mean Australia is facing a more dynamic and contested regional environment.
Existing and emerging critical technologies will drive more efficient and productive economies, help respond to future pandemics and health crises, and support more sustainable and equitable global development. Applications of Artificial Intelligence (AI) can increase productivity in ways that will add trillions of dollars to the global economy, and through applications such as earlier diagnosis of disease, will create better health outcomes. Increased digital connectivity provides communities with greater opportunities for education, access to government services and economic participation.
However, the promise of technology comes with new risks. As our reliance on technology increases, new means to misuse it are being developed. This includes unlawful invasive surveillance, malign influence operations using disinformation, and new ways to control populations and conduct foreign interference including political and economic coercion. The misuse of technology has exacerbated social divisions and inequality, and has been used to promote messages of hate and terror. Countries and companies at the cutting edge of innovation in these critical technologies often promote values that are at odds with our own.
Since the release of the International Cyber Engagement Strategy in 2017, Australia has strengthened its reputation as a world leader in engagement on cyber issues. The International Cyber and Critical Technology Engagement Strategy builds on this and expands our cyber-focused international engagement to add a broader perspective on critical technologies. This will not diminish our focus on international cyber policy, recognising that an open, free, safe and secure cyberspace is necessary for sustained technological innovation.
The International Cyber and Critical Technology Engagement Strategy sets out Australia's vision for a safe, secure and prosperous Australia, Indo-Pacific region and world enabled by cyberspace and critical technology. It provides a framework to guide Australia's international engagement across the spectrum of cyber and critical technology issues in support of this vision, and the practical actions Australia will take to advance our objectives.
The Australian Government defines critical technologies as those technologies with the capacity to significantly enhance, as well as pose risks to, Australia's national interests, including our prosperity, society and national security.
Cyberspace has become such a critical element of Australia's prosperity that many – if not all – of the information and communications technologies that underpin it are considered critical technologies.
Since 2017, the world's reliance on cyberspace has grown. The experience of COVID-19, in which millions of people around the world found themselves even more dependent on cyberspace for work, education, tele-health, shopping and social engagement, further highlights our reliance on digital connectivity.
Australia and our international friends, partners and allies must shape the design, development and use of technology to reflect our values and interests. If we fail, we face a more uncertain future and increasing difficulties in protecting our prosperity, security, and sovereignty.