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Google’s Deep Commitment to Building a Stronger Digital Future for Australia

An image depicting Google's event at Parliament House

Editor’s Note: On Wednesday night, Google Australia Managing Director Mel Silva gave the below address outlining Google’s deep commitment to building a stronger digital future for Australia, at the Great Hall in Parliament House.

I’d like to begin by acknowledging the Ngunnawal people as custodians of the land we’re meeting on today.

I’d like to recognise their unbroken connection to this land, spanning tens of thousands of years, and to pay my respects to elders past and present. I’d also like to recognise any First Nations people in the room with us today.

It’s important to note as we talk about scientific breakthroughs tonight - that we are merely continuing the work of many First Nations people - the original innovators and scientists of this country, we are grateful to benefit and build upon the knowledge and traditions that they graciously share with us.

Good evening Ministers, Members and Senators. Thank you very much for joining us here tonight.

I’m Mel Silva, Managing Director of Google Australia, and tonight it’s my privilege to share more about Google’s ongoing commitment to Australia.

We’re delighted that you’ve taken the time to come along tonight and if you haven’t already please do take a look around at the stands which showcase just some of the incredible projects we are working on with partners all over Australia.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese meets with NT band King Stingray ahead of a YouTube live music showcase

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese meets with NT band King Stingray ahead of a YouTube live music showcase

Looking back & where we are now

Google and Australia go back 20 years now and while so much has changed, partnership has been a constant element of the Google Australia story.

At its core, our business is built on partnership - we know that Google can only succeed when our customers and partners succeed.

Whether it’s partnering with researchers at Australian Universities or the CSIRO to tackle some of Australia’s biggest challenges.

Partnering with Australian businesses to help them reach customers all over the world.

Helping artists connect with their biggest fans on YouTube, or growing businesses, small and large, through Google Cloud.

Facilitating these connections has a real impact on the Australian economy. And tonight, I’m proud to share new analysis which shows that over the last year, Google contributed an estimated $70bn in annual benefits to people and businesses across the country and directly supported over 158,000 jobs, an increase of over 18% year-on-year.

In addition, YouTube supported the equivalent of 15,000 full time jobs in 2022 - these are Australian creators, educators and innovators - through its creative ecosystem.

Championing innovation and creativity is at the heart of what we do at Google Australia and we’re proud to have collaborated on some truly visionary Australian ideas over the past 20 years...Like Google Maps, which was developed in Sydney, and, as you can see, has come a long way since its launch.

Google Australia’s Managing Director Mel Silva addresses guests in the Great Hall

Google Australia’s MD Mel Silva addresses guests in the Great Hall

Google’s $1 billion Digital Future Initiative

This drive for innovation is why we launched our Digital Future Initiative, a $1b, five-year initiative to build on our long-term commitment to Australia - investing in digital infrastructure and developing local research capabilities in Australia.

And, crucially, supporting exceptional local research, academic and scientific communities. We’re doing things like:

Emerging Technology to Help Shape Australia’s Future

As you can see we’ve got these incredible research projects.... And they’re solving problems that are affecting Australians today. The profound technology making this progress possible is Artificial Intelligence.

At Google, we are seven years into our journey as an AI-first company. It’s exciting that we’re now enabling new uses of AI and expanding the possibilities of what it can do.

Generative AI — which we’ve introduced across a range of products from Search to Gmail to Photos — is reimagining what these products can do and making them even more helpful.

Our workspace tools can now help people draft documents in seconds or automatically transcribe the minutes of a virtual meeting.

Improvements like this will unlock significant productivity gains across the economy.

And we’re particularly excited about Bard, newly released in Australia, which lets people collaborate with generative AI. It is already helping Australians with things like planning their next family holiday, or how to get started on writing a novel.

We need to boldly pursue the opportunities that this technology can offer. At the same time, we’re clear-eyed about the risks and challenges.

As a leader in the space, we feel a deep responsibility to get this right. We’re developing technology according to our AI Principles, established back in 2018.

AI, as we’ve said for some time, is too important not to regulate.

Getting the right framework will take work and collaboration between companies, governments, industry and the community.

For years, Google has collaborated with university academics and researchers from around the world — including right here from the ANU — to help create standards for responsible AI development.

We look forward to working with you to develop responsible guardrails that... while mitigating risks... translate these technological breakthroughs into benefits for everyone.

Thousands of Australians Build Important Tech Skills

As technology advances, so do the jobs needed to unlock the opportunities that it provides.

We know Australia desperately needs more technology skills.

That’s why we’ve launched the Google Career Certificates program. It offers high quality, low cost micro-credentials for fields like IT, Data Analytics, UX Design and Digital Marketing.

They help create employment pathways for jobs needed now and in the future. Since launching recently, we’ve already had over 3000 Australians graduate from a Google Career Certificate course and 80% of those have had a positive career outcome - like a new job or promotion within six months.

Just like Michelle from Parramatta (my hometown in Sydney) who started a new career in UX Design, or Scott from Newcastle who worked as an electrician for 14 years before retraining into Data Analytics.

We’re seeing these Certificates empower Australians from a diverse range of backgrounds — in fact, a third of graduates are from the lowest income group in the country. Learners are supported by our community partners.

$3M to Develop Australia’s Next Generation of Engineers

We also need to make sure that our young people are ready with the skills and mindsets to tackle the challenges of the future, which is why I’m thrilled to announce that through, Google’s philanthropic arm, we’re giving $3 million dollars in grant funding to Schools Plus.

This grant will help Schools Plus, who we’ve been working with for 6 years, to develop an innovative new program that supports kids in some of our most disadvantaged areas.

It’s going to help them get ready — with creative and critical thinking skills — to jump into the STEM-related jobs our economy needs most.

We’ve made great progress so far on our 5 year Digital Future Initiative and in front of us, we’ve got an incredible opportunity to embrace the potential of big shifts in technology, like AI, to help Australia thrive.

It’s been an incredible 20 years here and we can’t wait for the next 20.

Minister Husic and Mel Silva