Our economy is, touch wood, beginning to bounce back from the COVID-19 pandemic. The explosion of businesses embracing digital tools, which played a critical role in keeping our economy running and people working, shows no sign of stopping. But there are some industries that need to up their digital game if we’re to unlock a multi-billion dollar virtual goldmine.

Doing business and the delivery of services has changed forever, with the virtual pivots many businesses made to ensure thousands of Australians could work from home, attend telehealth consults, virtual classrooms and even online gym classes continuing even as things have started to return to “normal”.

That’s actually good for the economy. Economic modelling by PwC, commissioned by Telstra, found that increased digitisation by businesses could add up to $90 billion to the Australian economy and create up to 250,000 new jobs by 2025.

The sticking point is this requires a number of key sectors to open digital doors they’ve been resisting or been slow to unlock.

More education for our educators

Education has been among the hardest hit industries since the pandemic took hold, according to our research with PwC. While education institutions have started the digitisation journey – with remote learning deployed across Australia’s schools – there is more to be done.

Digital upskilling of educators is lagging, with 79 per cent of organisations surveyed by PwC saying that they have staff with limited confidence engaging with digital tools. Creating stronger digital skills goes beyond hosting video links for students – it’s about offering a safe place for educators to try and share new digital ways of working. These might sound like small steps, but they add up – our research found that embracing digitisation in education will contribute up to $5 billion in new growth by 2025.

It’s time for governments to help open more digital doors

As the world continues to change, Australians are looking to government for guidance and assistance.

Now is the time for governments to embrace technology like data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) to provide better, more efficient services. This offers enormous potential for our digital economy, as our research found that up to 20,000 jobs can be created in the government sector by 2025 through increased digitisation.

Healthcare needs a digital injection

While our national healthcare system responded exceptionally to the COVID-19 crisis and temporary measures encouraged more telehealth services, one third of health organisations told us that they are yet to adopt telehealth services.

Connecting with patients over a video link might be a step in the right direction, but it’s important to continue finding new ways to enrich virtual patient care. Leveraging AI-enabled tools, such as predictive models built on big data sets, is one way to predict conditions with a high degree of accuracy, and shift healthcare from reactive management to early diagnosis and prevention.

Embracing digitisation in healthcare also has the potential to create up to $8 billion in new growth by 2025.

Transport and logistics take caution on the digital highway

COVID-19 has severely tested transport, logistics and supply chains – the backbone of our economy – from delays to production through to disruption of global suppliers. What helped though was the sector’s early adoption of data analytics, digital tools and remote working applications that help organisations get a greater visibility into their supply chain and keep track of their assets.

A good example is Telstra’s Track and Monitor asset-tracking platform that was used by a healthcare customer as they deployed COVID-19 triage clinics across the east coast of Australia. This ensured valuable equipment wasn’t misplaced, helping to mitigate risk as demand continued to increase.

While transport and logistics are on the front foot when it comes to adopting digital technology, the next step is elevating cyber security to a top priority. More than half (54 per cent) of the organisations we spoke to are underprepared for a cyber incident. The sensible next step is ensuring that their data is secure – from putting network security in place to block attacks to ensuring ecosystem partners understand security responsibilities. Otherwise, it’ll be hazard ahead.

What’s next?

It’s clear that running a business in a COVID world is very different to how we operated pre-pandemic. Stronger digital skills means faster adoption of digitisation, improved customer experience and better business economics, no matter what industry your business operates within.

Based on our experience helping businesses from every industry across Australia on their digital transformation journey, our business technology experts at Telstra Purple have developed a Digital Maturity tool. Knowing how your business stacks up in terms of your ability to respond to Australia’s digital opportunity is powerful knowledge when you are deciding how to respond to changing business environments.

Now is the time to embrace digitisation to raise the Australian economy up and create the jobs of tomorrow.