30 Aug

'Why engage with the UK’s Digital Trade Network?' By Tanya Williams, British Consulate Melbourne

Many of us will remember a time when sharing your credit card details – or indeed any personal data – over the internet would have been a huge error of judgement. Yet forecasts predict that by the end of this year, the global transaction value of digital payments will be a whopping US$6.68 trillion. And we’re not just trading physical goods and services online: the internet has enabled the most creative tech companies to develop innovative business models and create new digital value chains, impacting every sector of the global economy, from financial services, to healthcare, to education and beyond.

Digital trade is fast becoming the dominant form of trade and the Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated these trends: the potential for digital transformation to fuel economic recovery is now top of the agenda for CEOs and policymakers alike. However we are also seeing an increase in protectionist measures that can impede progress, such as requirements to localise data or the forced transfer of source code. Additionally, diverging technical and regulatory standards can make it more difficult to connect different digital markets. These issues cannot be solved in isolation, and require closer international collaboration across government, industry and civil society.

The Digital Trade Network (DTN) is a joint initiative by the Department for International Trade (DIT) and the UK’s Digital department DCMS. It was launched in 2020, as part of a number of measures by the UK government to boost digital trade and enhance UK digital economy collaborations internationally. It strengthens the UK’s relationships across the Asia Pacific region, by increasing UK digital tech expertise across a number of key markets including Australia, Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Singapore and Indonesia, in partnership with the UK’s tech scale up experts Tech Nation.

My job as Head of Digital Trade in Australia and New Zealand is to look horizontally across UK’s digital ecosystem and identify partnerships and projects that offer:

  • For UK tech businesses: more support for you to expand into the Asia Pacific region and bring the best UK tech to Aussie shores, from greater market intelligence and on-the-ground expertise to accelerate your growth overseas, to increased support for addressing barriers to digital trade.
  • For Australian tech businesses and investors: greater insights and connections into the UK tech sector, including through Tech Nation’s well established UK-wide entrepreneur network to find new partners or new investment opportunities.
  • For governments: increased capacity for collaborations to tackle shared challenges in the digital economy and maximise opportunities - for example in digital regulation, investment into new technologies and digital skills.

The UK’s tech sector has experienced rapid expansion: our digital tech economy is valued at almost US$585bn and employs nearly 3 million people. A new tech business is created every 30 minutes and we have now reached the 100th unicorn milestone (companies valued at USD$1 billion or more), alongside only the US and China.

Australia’s tech sector is also expanding. Recent research from Accenture shows that the tech sector’s contribution to the Australian economy has increased 79% since 2016 and that tech would be the third largest contributor to GDP, if it were classified as its own industry. Australia also has a track record for breaking ground in digital trade with its Digital Economy Agreement with Singapore.

Together there is plenty the UK and Australia can do to position ourselves as future-focused global technology leaders at the forefront of digital transformation. The Fintech Bridge is a great example of existing collaboration and the UK-Australia Free Trade Agreement will set a new standard for digital trade and innovation. Beyond FTAs, Australia and the UK are likeminded partners for influencing digital rules at international fora, including the WTO, G7 and G20.

If your organisation is interested connecting on this ambitious agenda, please get in touch – I’d love to hear from you.

By Tanya Williams, Head of the UK’s Digital Trade Network in Australia and New Zealand

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