Australia can use digital networks to engage, educate and influence sustainable development in the region. This can help with SDG Goal 17: "Enhance North-South, South-South and triangular regional and international cooperation on and access to science, technology and innovation and enhance knowledge sharing ...".
Apart from the original Colombo Plan, where Australia funded students from developing nations to study in Australia, there has been the Virtual Colombo Plan (2001) to provide $230M to support of distance education programs in developing countries. The most notable scheme funded under the virtual plan was the African Virtual University. More recently, in 2015, the Australian Academic Research Network (AARnet) proposed a fibre-optic link to the region's educational institutions to Australia in a Digital Colombo Plan. However such plans have been ah-hoc and lacking in a clear benefit to Australia.
Some areas for Australia:
- Teaching Computing: The National Australian Digital Technologies Curriculum for all Australian schools was endorsed 18 September 2015. The University of Adelaide pioneered a Free Digital Curriculum Course for Teachers. This could be packaged and offered at low cost to the region.
- Address real world issues: Australia can provide project based work addressing issues such as climate change.
- Innovation and hacking competitions can help make make STEM look exciting for students.
- Soft skills can be addressed on-line. Soft skills figure prominently in the ANU's "TechLauncher