Alphabet’s Google division is digging deep and pledging to spend A$1 billion ($736 million) in Australia over the next five years.

The sizeable investment was confirmed on Tuesday in a blog post by CEO Sundar Pichai, who dubbed it as the ‘Digital Future Initiative’, which will include “initiatives to strengthen digital infrastructure, develop Australian technology and talent, and solve global and local challenges.”

Google (and Facebook) clashed famously with the Australian government last year, after it pressed ahead a law change called the ‘media bargaining law’, that would force tech firms to pay local publishers for news and other content they utilise, or even link to, on their platforms.

Australia clash

This saw Google for a time halt its News Showcase scheme in the country, and in January Google even threatened to pull its search engine out of Australia altogether.

Facebook also banned the sharing of news content in the country for a time.

But Australia did not back down and its parliament in February passed the law requiring large tech firms to pay news organisations for using their content.

However it included a last-minute change, which removed a key provision that would have forced tech companies into arbitration, giving them more flexibility over the deals they choose to strike.

The government is scheduled to begin a review of the law’s effectiveness in March 2022.

After the revision, Google launched News Showcase in Australia in February and reached its own deal with News Corp to include the company’s content in Showcase.

The row had been closely followed around the world, as countries including the US and the UK considered similar laws aimed at protecting their domestic media.

New investment

But now Google is seeking to reset its relationship with Australian authorities, and said it planned to expand its cloud infrastructure, set up a research hub staffed by Australian researchers and engineers, and partner with science agency the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).

“Google’s growing presence across Australia reflects our deep confidence in the future – and the profound opportunities ahead,” wrote Pichai. “Looking ahead, we want to help Australia shape the next wave of innovations, and bring the benefits of technology to more people.”

“To help, today I’m proud to announce our biggest investment in Australia yet: a five-year, A$1 billion commitment to launch the Digital Future Initiative,” he wrote.

This investment will focus on three areas, he said.

  1. First, it will help develop Australia’s digital infrastructure, focused on cloud computing.
  2. Second, it will broaden the opportunity we provide for local tech talent — including the launch of our first research hub in Australia (Google Research Australia).
  3. Third, Google will create new technology partnerships with CSIRO and Macquarie University to help solve Australian and global challenges.

“Partnerships like these will be at the heart of the Digital Future Initiative,” he wrote. “We believe a strong digital future is one where everyone has access to technology and the skills to use it, where the internet economy fulfills its immense potential, and Australia’s long tradition of innovation can grow and thrive.

“We look forward to working together as Australia builds that future, and we can’t wait to be part of it,” Pichai concluded.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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