US tech giant Microsoft has announced an A$5 billion (US$3.2 billion) investment in Australia that will propel its artificial intelligence and cloud computing capabilities within the 13th largest economy in the world. The ambitious project will augment the company’s local data center capacity by 250 percent, enabling it to respond to surging demand for cloud-based AI applications and services as they become increasingly prevalent.
The project will also support digital skills training for 300,000 Australians, cultivating a workforce capable of navigating the digital economy and capitalizing on emerging opportunities. In addition, the firm will launch a new Datacentre Academy in 2024 in partnership with TAFE NSW. The facility will provide training aligned with the requirements of data center technicians, critical environment specialists, and inventory and asset management professionals.
Microsoft says its new data centers will help the company meet its sustainability goals of being carbon-negative, water-positive, and zero waste by 2030. The facilities will have high-efficiency design, low-carbon construction materials, renewable energy, and advanced water-cooling features. The company will also work to reduce its diesel fuel usage.
Cybersecurity will be a crucial focus of the project, as well. The company will collaborate with the Australian Signals Directorate on the Microsoft-ASD Cyber Shield, a project to harden protection from cyber threats for individuals, businesses, and government entities. The partnership will improve cyber threat information sharing, allowing agencies to identify and respond to sophisticated nation-state attacks quickly.
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According to the tech giant, the deal is Microsoft’s most significant investment in its 40-year history in Australia. It will boost the country’s economy by supporting 1.2 million jobs in the technology sector by 2030 and strengthen its cybersecurity defenses against nation-state cyberattacks.
“Australia is a natural home for the development of artificial intelligence and the next generation of cloud infrastructure,” said Microsoft Australia CEO Kate Dudgeon. “Our innovation, productivity, and global competitiveness are based on a strong foundation of data centers which act as incubators for startup companies, enable scale-ups to compete at the highest level, and provide the same security and innovation as the world’s biggest companies.”
Tech Council of Australia CEO Kate Pounder added that hyper scale clouds like those operated by Microsoft lower barriers to entry for startups, allow startups to increase, and make it possible for smaller firms to access the same technology used by the giant corporations. “The Tech Council welcomes this substantial investment from Microsoft to help ensure that Australia continues to thrive in the intelligent machine age.”
The deal was announced a day before the arrival in the United States of Australia’s prime minister, Anthony Albanese, who is on a four-day official visit to the United States. The trip will include a state dinner hosted by President Joe Biden. During his stay, Albanese will discuss strengthening economic ties with the United States and discussing regional issues with his American counterparts.