Clean tech, quantum and space: the future of the bilateral technology relationship
David Masters, Global Policy & Regulatory Affairs, Atlassian
Technology has a reputation as a disruptive force.
Possibly the biggest and most positive disruptive force unleashed by technology is the ability for companies to be more easily born global. These global firms increasingly have global teams, separated physically by geography, but powered by technology to be truly collaborative in a way not possible in decades past.
Tech’s disruptive impact isn’t always positive. So while we have to acknowledge there are potentially harmful social impacts of technology and that governments have a right to mitigate those risks, I believe strongly that the positives of the global, free and open Internet far outweigh the negatives.
This global and open nature of technology is the same force that enabled two young Australians from the University of NSW to build a global software powerhouse from their base in Sydney. Now, 20 years later, Atlassian is a NASDAQ listed company, with over 8,000 people across more than 13 countries and a plan to become a company of more than 25,000 employees.
This includes a large and growing presence in India. Starting with just over 60 employees four years ago, Atlassian has more than 1,000 Indian employees and has plans to hire and increase that dramatically over the next year.
As demonstrated by Atlassian’s success, this open approach to global technology trade and the free and open Internet has benefited India and Australia enormously. For Atlassian, India is our fastest-growing talent location and is already our third largest country for employees after the US and Australia.
India is a destination for companies seeking highly skilled professionals. Github estimates there are already 5.8 million software developers in India and that number is growing rapidly.
As a demonstration of this, Atlassian’s Indian team is an essential part of our global R&D workforce. Today, large parts of our products for the IT Service Management market are built out of India, as well as significant elements of our cloud platform and infrastructure. That the Indian technology workforce is world class can also be witnessed in the number of Indian-born and trained technology and business professionals who are now CEOs of some of the world’s largest tech firms, including Adobe, Microsoft, Google, IBM, VMWare and Twitter.
The potential for technology partnerships between Australia and India has been underplayed for a long time, or worse, characterised as a simplistic functional outsourcing relationship. This is a view that diminishes the skill and value of the Indian workforce and the investment of Indian companies in Australia. It ignores the fact that Indian IT services firms like Wipro, Infosys, TCS and Tech Mahindra have built large Australian operations employing tens of thousands of people. The services they provide have enabled many traditional sectors of the Australian economy to digitise, creating significant benefits and positioning Australia well to weather the COVID storms.
It also ignores the fact that increasingly, Australian tech companies are accessing Indian talent to help them to scale their operations faster. According to the Tech Council of Australia, tech is already Australia’s third largest sector in terms of contribution to GDP after Mining and Financial services.
The new Albanese Labor Government has committed to the Tech Council’s target of 1.2 million jobs by 2030. To hit that target we are going to need the Australian industry to continue to rapidly grow and scale; and to do that we need both locally trained and developed talent but also access to international sources of skills. For Atlassian, growing our team in India creates both employment opportunities there, and helps us to continue to scale our services rapidly worldwide, so other locations like Australia benefit. India is key to our aim to become a 25,000-person company. We will also grow our employee numbers in Australia significantly under this plan. So, both nations benefit from that growth. In a similar win win, Australia offers Indian tech companies a great market with a proven track record as early adopters of technology, to begin to access broader export opportunities.
One of India’s most successful Software as a Service (SaaS) companies is Freshworks whose first customer anywhere in the world was the Perthbased Atwell College. Freshworks is now listed on the NASDAQ and has more than 3,000 customers in Australia. To the credit of both Governments, Australia and India see partnerships on technology as key to growing their trade and investment relationship. It forms a significant part of the Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement between the two countries signed in April and could play an even bigger role in the ongoing trade negotiations between our two nations.
While the partnerships on software and services are well established and well positioned to grow, there are also massive opportunities to grow the integration of our supply chains and talent pools into other areas like clean technology, quantum and space. India offers Australia a massive, fast-growing market with a rapidly digitising citizenry; and an enormous pool of incredibly talented and well-trained technology professionals. Australia has a huge demand for talent to support our digital transformation and support the scaling of our emerging technology companies. This clearly benefits both nations. Continuing to focus on improving the flow of talent and resisting knee-jerk attempts to restrict the flow of data is critical to the ongoing success of this bi-lateral technology relationship.
David Masters is the Director of Global Public Policy at Atlassian and is currently the Chair of the Information and Communication Technology Industry Reference Committee and Co-Chair of the Skills and Talent Subcommittee of the Technology Council of Australia. David has previously been the Corporate Affairs Director for Microsoft Australia, ICT Practice Director for public affairs consultancy Parker & Partners and has worked for the Australian Government as a senior public servant and adviser on a range of ICT policy issues. Atlassian is the principle corporate partner for the 2022 Australia India Leadership Dialogue.