Shujahat has a graduate degree in a booming global sector, but he just can’t find a local job

Shujahat Khan is not where he thought he'd be when he completed postgraduate studies in cybersecurity — a complex field of work that aims to prevent information warfare and data theft.

Key points:

  • Recent graduates say they are struggling to find jobs in tech industry
  • The NT government says it is moving on a recommendation to develop a local digital hub
  • Experts say doing that would boost the economy and the population

Despite living in what Mr Khan calls the "age of technology", the recent graduate works as a security guard by day and moonlights as an Uber driver by night.

He says that, even though society increasingly relies on digital information, job options in the Northern Territory simply have not kept up.

"I know some [people] who have got jobs but still heaps of students who graduated with me, they are still looking," he said.

"It's a little bit frustrating.

"I'm applying, I am struggling."

Mr Khan wants to continue calling Darwin home, so he hopes that it is only a matter of time before the Northern Territory capital develops its own booming digital industry.

"In digital hubs, there are lots of jobs related to cyber security and, hopefully, I will [get] one of them," he said.

"Having a digital hub in Darwin will open the door for not only the students, but also the experienced people in technology."

Experts say a digital precinct in Darwin would boost the economy, draw investment and encourage students and grow the population.(ABC News: Michael Franchi)

The Northern Territory government says it is acting on a recommendation made in its 2020 coronavirus economic recovery blueprint to develop a local digital services industry positioning.

"In late 2021, the government engaged the services of KPMG to undertake initial, high-level scoping work to inform government regarding a potential digital precinct," a government spokesperson said.

"This work is expected to be completed in early 2022."

However, a senior lecturer in IT programs at Charles Darwin University, Bharanidharan Shanmugam, said the number of local graduates continued to outpace the "very limited" number of local job opportunities.

"But when we have a digital hub, the number of opportunities will grow and the students will get places very easily," Dr Shanmugam said.

What is a digital hub?

Dr Shanmugam described a digital hub as an "ecosystem" that supports innovative start-up companies and is often a precinct with lightning-fast internet, a strong workforce and a place where resources can be shared.

He said digital hubs attracted "global talents" and benefited the local economy.

Dr Bharanidharan Shanmugam says the Northern Territory would benefit from a digital hub. (ABC News: Che Chorley)

Silicon Valley — home to big companies such as Apple and Google — has maintained its dominance as a digital innovation capital and is the place most people would cast their mind to as an example of a digital hub.

In fact, hubs are emerging all over the world and they are developing fast.

"In India, they started multiple [information technology] parks where the [government] provided infrastructure," Dr Shamnugam said.

"Because of that, companies started investing in technology … and that definitely benefited the economy," he said.

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East London Tech City, also known as Silicon Roundabout, now houses several major technology companies and has seen a growth in start-ups, as has Tel Aviv, which has one of the highest numbers of emerging companies per capita in the world.

In Australia, nearly every state has a digital precinct, including inner-Sydney's Australian Technology Park, which is home to a community of researchers and hi-tech companies.

Northern Territory's Minister for Corporate and Digital Development, Paul Kirby, the said a hub could position the Territory as "the digital gateway to Asia and beyond".

"A digital precinct will develop our local digital economy to better support all industry sectors, including drones, cyber security, data management and insights," he said.

Tech void pushing families out

As it currently stands, however, the lack of a local tech precinct is pushing some families from Darwin to other cities.

Aarthee Rathnakumar and her family, regretfully, left Darwin in 2021 after spending years searching for a job in her industry and getting nowhere.

"When I came from India, I had a background in app development," she said.

"I applied for dozens of jobs but couldn't get what I really wanted."

Ms Rathnakumar, with her partner, chose Brisbane — where the city's tech industry is coming of age — and had three job offers before she moved.

Aarthee Rathnakumar and her family moved interstate in search of better job opportunities.(Supplied)

"It was the technology I wanted to work with," she said. "It really worked out for us."

But she said relocating was a difficult decision she didn't want to make, and she might have stayed if Darwin's tech industry had been more developed.

"Darwin is a nice place to raise your family, it is very quiet and relaxing," she said.

"Yes, definitely, we would have re-thought our move."


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