NBN Co and the CSIRO have joined forces to better understand and prepare for Australia’s evolving digital capability needs through a series of national research projects.

The collaboration, announced on Tuesday morning, is set to combine the network builder’s knowledge of broadband traffic patterns with the national science agency’s analysis and modelling capabilities.

The first research project under the partnership seeks to develop a better understanding of the skills, infrastructure and other support structures industries need to increase the adoption of digital technologies.

CSIRO’s digital arm, Data61, will perform the initial analysis using “aggregated and de-identified” NBN broadband traffic data which, along with other economic, demographic and geographic data, will be used to explore how households and businesses have used digital technologies for work, entertainment and social connections during the coronavirus health crisis, NBN Co said.

The project will also examine how digital transformation efforts have progressed during the course of the pandemic and the impact of associated social distancing and travel restrictions.

This initial analysis will function as a baseline for the digital maturity and resilience of different industry sectors, business activities, jobs and households and will be used in predictions around their ability to recover in a post-pandemic world.

NBN Co said the research may uncover the relative success of industries in adopting digital technologies and adapting to an evolving work environment.

It will also provide additional perspectives on productivity during the pandemic.

“Embracing accelerated digitisation of the economy and making the most of the benefits of fast and reliable broadband will be crucial as we recover from the impacts of COVID-19,” NBN Co CEO Stephen Rue said in a statement.

“The challenges facing our nation are significant, which is why we must find innovative ways to support Australia’s resilience and recovery.

“By working together with CSIRO, we can transform underlying national broadband traffic data into high-value insights to inform how Australia can drive and retain innovation, help ensure our industries are as productive as they can be, and build resilience in our economy.”

After establishing a baseline of digital activity and economic performance, future research initiatives are expected to explore the use of data to improve energy reliability and efficiency, data privacy and security, automation in agriculture, and digital health.

CSIRO chief executive Dr Larry Marshall said the partnership with NBN Co will help shape how the country responds to digitisation across key industry sectors.

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