2021/2022 federal budget funds $1.2 billion digital economy strategy

The Coalition government has softened the effect of the end of the JobKeeper wage subsidy on the economy with a large range of initiatives to support economic growth this year and for the future.

The big news for small business is a $1.2 billion Digital Economy Strategy. This includes $100 million to help small businesses build their digital skills. The money will fund a pilot for work-based digital cadetships, help build the cyber workforce and support scholarships for tech graduates. On top of this, $12.7 million will go into expanding the Digital Solutions – Australian Small Business Advisory Service.

Commenting on this initiative, Kiri Yanchenko, founder of innovative skin care business AMPERNA, says it’s positive the government has taken steps to help Australian small business build their digital skills.

“Understanding the way social media and digital platforms work been invaluable for AMPERNA. But after using a government service very early on in our journey, I realised most free or subsidised government services that exist to help small to medium business with social media and marketing weren’t actually able to help in these areas.” 

“I didn’t have time to waste, so I sought training from private service providers to extend my skills. If government services only have the ability to teach a very basic course, how will they be able to help businesses with practical knowledge past a very rudimentary level in future? The digital landscape changes so fast, how will they will keep up?”

Paving the way for artificial intelligence

In total, $124.1 million has been allocated to artificial intelligence (AI) investments including a National Artificial Intelligence Centre and a network of AI and Digital Capability Centres. A smaller amount, $35.7 million, has been set aside for emerging technologies like drones, especially to support their use in regional Australia.

It’s a measure drone luminaries such as Aymeric Maudous, founder and director at Lord of the Trees, is applauding. The business operates drones used to plant seeds to help re-forest and restore ecosystems after events such as bushfires on a vast scale.

“Drones have significant potential to boost our economy and its regions over the next decade. This budget is a step in the right direction from our government, with financial commitments around the growth and regulations of this industry.

“Support for this rapidly-growing technology should enhance productivity across the nation, in particular in the agricultural, forestry and land management sectors.”

Funding – need of the hour

There’s an urgent need for small business funding. So, the government should be congratulated for extending the low-interest loan scheme introduced at the start of the pandemic to help smaller entities to access growth capital. Under this scheme, businesses may borrow up to $1 million over five years, with an interest-free period available for part of the loan term. Businesses can also have access to alternative funding sources through bank and non-bank providers. Discover your funding options via loans, equity and grants at Swoop.

On the tax front, federal treasurer Josh Frydenberg announced businesses will continue to be able to depreciate the full value eligible assets they buy for the next two years. This will encourage businesses to invest for the future without taking a hit to cash flow.

The Coalition is also establishing an independent umpire to adjudicate disputes with the ATO over debt recovery. “We will take these disputes out of the courts and let small business get on with what they do best,” the Treasurer said.

Budget geared towards economy revival

In terms of the headlines, Mr Frydenberg last night announced a better-than-expected budget deficit of $161 billion for 2021/22, a substantial improvement on the $108.5 billion deficit expected at the mid-year economic and fiscal review released in December 2020.

Overall, it’s a budget designed to keep the economy ticking over as we come through the pandemic and look to the future. It will certainly be interesting to see how the business owners navigate the recovering economy and equip themselves with the right digital tools for growth.  If you’re interested in seeking funding to help finance your business growth, Swoop’s team of experts can help you secure the ideal funding for your business. Simply sign-in or register an account for free, to get started. 

Written by Alexandra Cain

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