The 5G rollouts in Australia by Telstra, Optus and Vodafone will impact consumers and enterprises alike. It is expected that enterprises will see an uptick in IoT adoption, leveraging the lower latency to connect devices for real-time data transfer and insights. Industries, especially those that operate in remote and rural regions of the country such as Agriculture and Mining are expected to benefit immensely.
“However, there are challenges to leveraging digitalisation effectively, including a lack of awareness, knowledge and skills, and funding to support innovation and scale, in aligning with the growing pressure within sectors to meet increasing productivity and compliance requirements,” says Ecosystm Principal Advisor, Jannat Maqbool. “Adoption of IoT specifically is resulting in new data supply chains, that those operating in many industries cannot cater for with respect to infrastructure and also the skills necessary to process and extract valuable insights from the data.”
Ecosystm research shows that only 37% of organisations looking to adopt IoT in Australia have a strategic internal team to create the roadmap and manage the deployment. This indicates a lack of skills that organisations can utilise, depending on external resources such as consulting firms and ISVs instead. To cater to the expected growth in Australia’s IoT market, IoT Alliance Australia (IoTAA) – that represents more than 500 participating organisations and 1,000 individual participants – has come forward with the IoT Australia Skills Barometer survey.
The survey created in association with La Trobe University aims to gauge the IoT skills gap, to inform educators and adopters on the potential areas of focus for future skills development. It covers questions on IoT adoption, challenges expected, solutions being evaluated, and courses needed.
Addressing the Skills Gap
As the adoption of IoT increases, there will be added requirement for skills in data storage, infrastructure management and creating frameworks. The survey is expected to help the industry determine the skills gap, isolate training and re-skilling requirements and develop courses and hands-on sessions to address the end-to-end services requirements and better utilisation of data gathered from the devices.
There are some courses that are already available – mostly run in collaboration with industry. Last year, Rio Tinto, the Western Australia Government and South Metropolitan TAFE developed Australia’s first nationally-recognised remote operations course. Earlier this year, RMIT partnered with IBM to deliver the IoT and 5G business opportunity courses to equip business professionals with the right technology and business skills for IoT projects.
“Awareness of the potential of emerging technologies needs to target both non-technical and technical members of the organisation. This wider buy-in is needed to drive thinking around the ‘why’ from stakeholders across the business, enabling a more informed decision around the potential impact on existing resources, infrastructure, processes, products, required investment and business outcomes,” says Maqbool. “Any education and training program needs to allow for this focus on awareness, then provide opportunities to build on this for those that then want to gain the deeper knowledge and technical skills required to effectively leverage the IoT.”
“Education and training programs to support the uptake of digital technologies across the wider population and traditionally non-digital industries require a contextual learning and a flexible delivery approach.”
Government and Industry working together
“A digital divide exists in many countries – especially for those in rural communities. They are often not in a position to access the infrastructure necessary to support a real-world connection in a contextual learning environment, let alone having the digital literacy and scaffolding to get to a point where they can effectively consider leveraging emerging technologies,” says Maqbool.
This is where governments play a larger role. To accelerate innovation and make better use of technology the Australian Government is supporting clear communication and a better understanding of IoT, implementing standards and regulations, upgrading digital infrastructure, creating opportunities for economic and social benefits and collaborating with research and education institutes to deliver skills, innovation and growth in the IoT sector.
One of the key areas of focus will have to be cybersecurity. Regulatory compliance and security & privacy issues are the key barriers of IoT adoption in Australia (Figure 1).
Last year, the Australian government released a draft code of practice to enable businesses implementing IoT solutions to follow certain principles as a voluntary measure to defend against threats.
The Government is also seeing a larger potential for IoT in some industries. To support the Agriculture industry, the Australia Government has allocated USD 90 million to the Smart Farms program to support the development and uptake of best practices and technologies in farms, fisheries and forestry, with a special focus on regional communities. In its FY2019-20 federal budget, the Government announced plans to invest USD 1.4 million for a feasibility study and assess ways on improving digital on-farm connectivity. Similarly, Australia’s National Landcare Program (NLP) delivered by the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (DAWE) is receiving financial support until June 2023.