OzTech: Australia’s first AI action plan; NSW to spend $28M on bushfire tech; Free cloud practitioner course; Optus installs batteries in cell towers

OzTech Roundup is Computerworld Australia’s weekly look at the world of IT.

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Federal government announces first AI action plan

The Australian federal government has released the Artificial Intelligence Action Plan, with four focus areas to position the country as a global leader in AI. The four focus areas include:

  • supporting businesses to adopt AI
  • growing and attracting the world’s best AI talent
  • using AI to solve significant national challenges
  • making Australia a leader in responsible and inclusive AI

The action plan is backed by $124.1 million in funding announced in the May 2021 budget, with $53.8 million to create a National Artificial Intelligence Centre to coordinate the nation’s AI expertise and capabilities and foster greater collaboration between industry and research institutions.

The AI graduates’ program will receive $24.7 million to attract and train home-grown, job-ready AI specialists. The government will also provide $33.7 million to support Australian businesses to partner with government on pilot projects for AI-based solutions to national challenges.

A further $12 million will be used to promote AI opportunities in regional areas by cofunding as many as 36 competitive grants to develop AI solutions that address local or regional challenges.

The plan comes 15 months after the AI roadmap was announced.

NSW puts $28 million towards technology to help prepare for bushfires

The New South Wales government has announced a $28 million investment in research and development of new and emerging industries and technology to prepare the state for future bushfires.

This means establishing the NSW Bushfire Response R&D Mission—a priority action as per the state’s Accelerating R&D Action Plan—which will receive $7 million per year for the next four years as part of the 2021-22 New South Wales budget. The funding will help create a bushfire technology network to engage small business to develop and commercialise bushfire technologies and ensure that new technologies are tested by frontline NSW bushfire services.

The government expects the mission will develop the use of real-time data from space, air and ground-based assets, ensure fire ground decisions made are based on information and computer-aided tools, and enable the use of equipment including robots to aid responders.

In 2020, the NSW government released the final report of the NSW Bushfire Inquiry that included 76 recommendations. They include establishing a spatial technology acceleration program to maximise the information available from the various remote-sensing technologies currently in use and to plan for inclusion of new remote-sensing systems that can sense precisely and rapidly through heavy smoke, cloud, fog, and dust.

Also in 2020, the state government started working with local and international organisations to investigate how it can use data from multiple satellites and local sensor networks to create algorithms that will help detect fires earlier, predict fire behaviour, and help emergency services respond more effectively to protect homes, people, and nature.

Free cloud practitioner program

The McKinsey-backed not-for-profit Generation Australia has launched the cloud practitioner program, a 12-week free online course for people who are not currently employed full time but have the right to work in Australia and are not currently undertaking any other education or training programs.

The course is scheduled to start on 1 July 2021 and will take 50 students in this first cohort. This is the first cloud program Generation Australia has launched; there are plans to take another group in November 2021.

This course is a partnership with Accenture and Microsoft. Accenture has committed to employing 20 graduates from the program within 12 months, with more direct employment opportunities expected through Microsoft’s One Channel Partner network.

Optus rolls out batteries to keep mobile sites running during grid power failure

Optus has revealed a new battery, developed in partnership with Delta Electronics Australia, that ensures transmission hubs can provide mobile sites up to 20 extra hours of continuity when the transmission hub’s main grid power fails. Optus is installing units in 40 sites.

According to Optus, 10 to 20 hours of extra power gives time to authorities to restore services and allow Optus to access a site safely if the area is affected by extreme weather or natural disaster.

The majority of Optus sites rely on a third of its towers, which are transmission hubs; they are where the first battery units are being rolled out.

Dubbed Yes CPX, the batteries monitor the existing battery backup for the critical transmission hub equipment, and when they detect the existing batteries are near depletion, the Yes CPX batteries kicks in to provide another 10 to 20 hours of backup power.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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