Microsoft invests $5b in Aussie cyber shield, AI future

Microsoft will make a $5 billion investment in its Australian operations.  Photo: Getty

Microsoft will make a $5 billion investment in its Australian operations. Photo: Getty Photo: Getty

Microsoft will invest $5 billion to expand its footprint in Australia in the first major announcement of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s US visit.

Over the next two years, the single-largest investment in Microsoft’s 40-year history in Australia will boost artificial intelligence and cloud computing infrastructure, the tech giant announced on Tuesday (AEDT).

In the US, Albanese said the major investment in skills and workers of the future would help Australia to strengthen its position as a world-leading economy.

“A strong economy requires protection from cyber threats,” he said.

Microsoft is coupling $5 billion in computing capacity and capabilities for artificial intelligence

The tech giant’s vice chair and president Brad Smith said the company would team the $5 billion in computing capacity and capabilities with AI and engineering that would strengthen the nation’s cyber defences.

Microsoft will collaborate with the Australian Signals Directorate on a cyber shield to combat threats to individuals, businesses and government organisations.

“This announcement builds on ASD’s strong partnership with Microsoft and will turbocharge our collective capacity to protect Australians in cyber space,” ASD Director-General Rachel Noble said.

The Microsoft-Australian Signals Directorate Cyber Shield, or MACS, will involve sharing intelligence and developing tools, with a focus on detecting, analysing and defending against sophisticated nation-state cyber threats such as China and Russia.

Microsoft is also working with TAFE NSW to establish a data centre academy in Australia to train technicians, specialists and other personnel.

Federal Labor aims to have 1.2 million people in tech jobs in Australia by 2030, a goal shared by the industry.

“A priority for my government is to ensure all Australians benefit from economic growth,” Albanese said.

“This means that we need to provide the skills to enable Australians to succeed in the jobs of the future.”

The US-based company’s global skills programs will be expanded to more than 300,000 Australians to help people adjust to a cloud- and AI-enabled economy.

Microsoft’s national data centre footprint will grow from 20 sites to a total of 29 across Canberra, Melbourne and Sydney to soak up the information load to come from the expansion of cloud and AI technology.

“Hyperscale cloud providers like Microsoft are integral to Australia’s tech industry,” Tech Council CEO Kate Pounder said.

“They lower the barrier to entry for startups, act as incubators for developing talent, allow scale-ups to compete on the global stage and provide the same innovation and security available to the largest companies,” she said.

Microsoft said the data centres would meet sustainability goals of being “carbon negative, water positive and zero waste by 2030”.

This includes using low-carbon materials during construction, as well as renewable energy, advanced water-cooling features and measures to decrease diesel fuel use.

Albanese met Smith, and Microsoft Australia and New Zealand managing director Steven Worrall during his state visit.

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