Western Australia’s software sector is burgeoning, big and based in the real world.
Yet while the state is delivering valuable and important software and technology solutions for some of the biggest and most complex companies on the planet, we are often not seen or celebrated as a central part of the global software ecosystem.
Think software, think Sydney, seems to be the mantra, but that lack of recognition globally doesn’t stack up with the sector’s growing strength.
Since 2000, WA has become headquarters to more than 450 tech start-up businesses, with the total enterprise value of those companies reaching more than $1.2 billion in 2022, according to analysis from Dealroom.
And the most recent data shows WA’s technology and medical research workforce is now the fastest growing in the country.
After recording 16% growth in tech workers in 2022 — almost twice the national average of 8.04% — our sector is forecast to grow to more than 82,000 employees by 2032.
That will make WA tech a bigger employer than the resources sector, illustrating how critical digital technology is to all the state’s industries.
The growth also underlines our status as a world-leader in research and inventiveness, built on achievements of global importance.
Some parts of the sector rightly get international attention. In 2018, Rio Tinto unveiled its autonomous rail system – known as Autohaul, the world’s largest robot.
We are already recognised as a global leader in remote operations, with trains, trucks and drill rigs in far-flung mining regions being run out of offices on St Georges Terrace.
The advances in mining technology are so significant that Simon Trott, who leads Rio Tinto’s Iron Ore operations, believes the state can become the “Silicon Valley of resources tech.”
But often the technology powering these enormous and profitable companies can be hidden behind the scenes.
As an example, INX Software is critical to the day-to-day operations and compliance of some of WA’s largest and most complex operations.
We help manage site access at Perth’s biggest employers, enable the daily mobilisation of thousands of FIFO workers, and support monitoring and reporting on environmental performance in the world’s most rugged and remote locations.
That’s a powerful story to tell, but one that often gets ignored in favour of robots and driverless trains.
We believe it is important that WA does more to support the tech sector’s potential — and we are starting to see that change filter through.
At the beginning of 2023, the state government updated its 10-year Innovation Strategy, laying out the pathway to setting up WA as a global hub of invention, investment, innovation and impact.
That strategy builds on several significant initiatives driving innovation in WA’s tech space, including DevelopmentWA’s Autonomous Automation and Robotics Precinct, which is helping prepare the state to support future industries and create local jobs in the fields of robotics and automation.
But to take the next big step, we need to be singing the praises of WA software was part of our storytelling around innovation and scientific advance.
We need to do more to talk about the jobs and opportunities for technology workers in our state, be better in celebrating the innovation and development acumen that resides in our companies, and encourage leaders in all sectors to act as ambassador for WA tech on the world stage.
The strength of our home-grown tech sector is not yet global news, but it should be.
And with the right backing, our rapidly growing culture of innovation and excellence will deserve its place among the biggest contributors to WA’s economic prosperity.