Cloud-based micro businesses floated for future economy

More cloud-based computing and artificial intelligence could fix Australia’s productivity problem, and fight deadly bushfires.

An Amazon Web Services (AWS) report released on Wednesday shows if smaller organisations in healthcare, education and agriculture take up new tools or apps, it could unlock up to $9.3 billion in productivity gains and support 1.4 million jobs by 2030.

The economic modelling focuses on the social impact for businesses with fewer than 250 workers in those sectors and what it would mean if they used cloud-based email services and data storage or more advanced technology.

These micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises, or MSMEs, of less than 250 staff could help more people connect with a doctor, do e-learning, or use precision agriculture to grow crops.

These enterprises are “a bit of an unsung hero” for the innovation they bring to the economy and society, Michelle Hardie, AWS head of strategy and operations for Australia, told AAP.

MSMEs make up 99 per cent of businesses in Australia, which means more people becoming open to learning new skills and adopting technology could be vital to solving many challenges.

“There’s huge potential there” she said.

For example, Queensland-based tech start-up Exci had an idea for a smoke alarm for the bush.

Working out of Maroochydore, Exci can detect bushfires within minutes by processing more than 2.5 million camera images and 30 gigabytes of satellite data daily, according to co-founder and CEO Christopher Tylor.

“Since 2021, we’ve been able to detect nearly 30,000 bushfires within Australia, minutes after ignition, and alert frontline responders five times faster than through human reporting,” the volunteer firefighter said.

Assuming there is access to electricity and the internet, precision data-driven AI could also address food shortages and keep crops alive through drought and extreme weather.

The AWS report estimated cloud-enabled benefits of $4.7 billion in annual productivity in healthcare, with support for 17 million telehealth consultations in Australia by 2030 – a 145 per cent increase on current usage.

In NSW, Osara Health has an app to support cancer patients through their diagnosis with individual advice about treatment and what to expect.

One-third of patients have reported an improvement in their pain, and almost three-quarters are more likely to return to work after treatment, CEO Raghav Murali-Ganesh said.

In education, digital platforms could bring $2.9 billion in annual productivity benefits in education and provide seven million students with e-learning options by 2030.

The report commissioned from consultancy Accenture found almost half of MSMEs were using basic cloud-based services.

But more advanced tools such as artificial intelligence, including generative AI, and machine learning for fraud detection or reporting on supply chains came in at 15 per cent.

Lack of skills, weakness in cybersecurity or lack of access to software and hardware were barriers for many organisations.

Ms Hardie said the technologies could be used by everyone from micro firms – of just one to nine people – up to the largest organisations.

“Being able to access this technology easily to get started is really important to them,” she said.

“It’s easy to get small, incremental skills that you can build, and certifications as well, which is really important for people when they’re either potentially changing career or if they’re developing their business.”


Marion Rae
(Australian Associated Press)


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