Google is making its largest investment ever in Australia with the Digital Future Initiative

CEO Sundar Pichai announced on Monday that the company will spend 1 billion Australian dollars (approximately 736 million dollars) on the country over the next five years.

The funds will partly go towards launching the company’s first research hub in Australia, as well as helping to develop the country’s cloud computing sector.

Google (GOOGL) also plans to merge with an Australian scientific research authority, which will include projects on clean energy and protection of the Great Barrier Reef. In addition, the company will collaborate with a local university on quantum data processing.
Google, which has been in Australia for two decades and now employs almost 2,000 people locally, said the new initiative is expected to help create new jobs and stimulate innovation.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison praised the proposal on Tuesday, calling it “a $ 1 billion vote of confidence” in Australia’s economic strategy. Morrison’s government has previously outlined plans to make Australia “a top digital economy by 2030”, and is working to strengthen its capabilities in artificial intelligence, among other areas.

Speaking at a Google office in Sydney on Tuesday, Morrison stressed that the plan “does not mean we’re trying to be the next Silicon Valley.”

But he said the company’s program would help create more than 6,000 jobs and add about 6.7 billion Australian dollars (4.9 billion dollars) of value to the economy.

“Our challenge, as we emerge from this pandemic in a very challenging world, is to secure Australia’s economic recovery,” Morrison added. “This is the challenge we face as we move into 2022, and Australia’s digital strategy is central to securing this recovery.”

Turn the page

Google’s efforts in Australia seem to be reversing the complicated relationship it has had with the country’s users and authorities in recent months.

The company has previously publicly argued with regulators about legislation that requires both Google and Facebook (FB) to pay publishers for news content.
For months, Google has been arguing vehemently against the proposed law. At one point last year, it even used its website to warn Australians that the proposed law would harm their ability to search and lead to “consequences” for YouTube users. Regulators at the time accused the company of spreading “misinformation”.

Tensions peaked in January, when the company threatened to withdraw its search engine in the country if the law went ahead.

Google agrees to pay news publishers more than $ 1 billion
But as a vote on the bill approached, Google took a different path. It tried to get ahead of the law by announcing partnerships with some of the country’s largest newsrooms, including Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp (NWS) and Seven West Media.
Meanwhile, the spotlight was largely on Facebook, which abruptly banned news content in Australia in February due to the proposed law.

Facebook later restored access to these pages after Australia made some changes to the code.

The law was finally passed in February, with Google’s strategy hailed by both media organizations and politicians.

Morrison addressed some of the company’s past issues on Tuesday, saying “the fact that Google has decided to invest the way they have … sel [our] cooperation.”

“We have already worked with the technology sector on so many fronts, and there are so many more we have to work with,” he said.

Hilary Whiteman contributed to this report.

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