The next wave of critical technologies, including next generation telecommunications, novel applications of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and quantum computing, will be more complex, pervasive and interconnected than current technology. They will be integrated into every aspect of life, and have the potential to reshape our economies.
Technology is a key element of strategic competition. The increasing pace of change and centrality of technology, combined with complex and interdependent markets and supply chains, create growing challenges. Some countries are actively seeking dominance of critical technology markets and supply chains in pursuit of their geopolitical interests.
COVID-19 has demonstrated that diverse markets are essential. Australia, like many large economies, has significant innovation capabilities but remains a net technology importer.
Ensuring we have access to diverse, global technology markets for trade, and also to attract investment, is important to prompt the production of secure, cost-effective critical technologies, and fundamental to our national interests and our sovereignty. Nevertheless, the challenge of effecting this should not be understated at a time when the technology landscape is increasingly characterised by fewer and more dominant market players, which are centralised in a small number of countries.
Open, resilient, diverse and competitive markets
The ability of countries to protect their interests in national security and ultimately, their sovereignty may be significantly diminished where key markets are dominated by a small number of producers. The potential for monopolisation of critical technologies, or their components, may pose significant risks. The competition afforded by diverse markets prompts the creation and distribution of cost-effective technologies. Conversely, market monopolisation risks subjecting countries to varying degrees of economic coercion, and undermining their ability to participate meaningfully in global markets.
Transparency from suppliers regarding their practices, governance and supply chains, coupled with technological offerings that are secure by design, are central to the fundamental levels of trust required by Australia.
To ensure countries have access to diverse markets and can make informed choices about critical technologies, Australia will enhance our engagement with international and industry partners. While supporting diversified markets, we will advocate for the development of platforms and technologies that are interoperable, and will oppose unnecessary bifurcation or fragmentation of global markets. We will also build the capacity of our regional partners in the Indo-Pacific to navigate this increasingly complex environment.
Technology supply chains are increasingly global, interdependent and complex. This can promote greater responsiveness, lower costs, wider captive audiences and more diverse international participation. However, this complexity also means supply chain risks are increasingly difficult to identify and mitigate. COVID-19 further demonstrated that this increased level of interdependency can have a considerable impact on the safety, security and prosperity of all.
Transparency within supply chains is central to identifying and managing supply chain risks. This includes knowledge about ownership and manufacture. The need for transparency is now even greater as some states seek to leverage supply chain vulnerabilities for strategic advantage and as a possible vector for coercion.
We will also seek to promote cyber and critical technology capabilities that can strengthen supply chain resilience and sustainability. The Australian Signals Directorate provides guidance to cyber security practitioners, in government, critical infrastructure and large organisations about key cyber supply chain risks.
The value chains for the raw materials required to manufacture high-tech hardware are insecure due to market monopolies, trade restrictions and strategic competition. Australia has the capacity to add to market diversity by serving as an additional supplier of many critical minerals.