ANU to set up a tech policy design centre

The Australian National University (ANU) is set to open a new centre to tackle the increasing influence and control technology plays in everyday life and “co-design a new generation of tech policy” to suit.

The tech policy design centre will address issues such as data use and permissions, the influence of ‘big tech’, online rights and safety, and the spread of “misinformation, disinformation and foreign interference on democracy.”

The centre will focus on four key themes – people, power, democracy and data – as it seeks to shape technology policy for “the long-term benefit of humanity”.

While no set date has been set for the official opening, the Canberra-based university plans to host the new centre within the Birch building on the ANU campus.

Former lawyer and Australian diplomat Johanna Weaver has been appointed as the centre’s inaugural director.

Weaver was previously Australia’s chief cyber negotiator at the United Nations and has held senior roles in cyber affairs at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

“Digital technologies touch every facet of our lives,” Weaver said.

“Today’s policy and governance structures are struggling to keep pace with the rapid evolution of technology. We need to fix that and we to fix it urgently.

“Harnessing the same spirit as the innovators of disruptive technologies, we need to disrupt our approach to tech policy.

“Reimagined, tech policy can be a powerful tool that complements tech innovation and delivers positive social, economic and security outcomes.

“That’s what this new centre will aim to do. We will work with business, government, civil society, policymakers, and academia to co-design a new generation of tech policy that is relevant, robust and right.”

Weaver said Australia must focus on “the substantial contribution the Australian tech industry makes to our economy and how best to harness the full potential” across all industries.

“We must never lose sight of the benefits of technology but, equally, we must not be blinded by techno-utopian visions of the future,” she said.

Weaver said the industry must “work collaboratively to continue innovating” yet develop a more proactive approach to “pre-empt and guard against, often unintended, harms.”

The centre will collaborate across ANU campus, with input anticipated from the School of Cybernetics, the School of Regulation and Governance, the National Security College and the College of Law.