NSW government departments and agencies will need to pick up their collective game if they are to make the most of sparse ICT funding allocated under the new handed down this week.
That's the view of Kevin Noonan, research director, public sector at Ovum, who said that despite the lower spend on ICT under the 2012-13 budget, it wasn't not all doom and gloom because ICT budgets announcements from previous years are expected to still flow into projects in the new financial year.
“Over the past year the government has invested significant effort in engaging with industry, streamlining procurement policy and setting short-term targets," Noonan told Computerworld Australia. "The coming year will be a pivotal period.
“It’s time to start delivering and to make sure the allocated money is spent wisely. In the coming financial year, the government will have a low tolerance for failure.”
Noonan said the government found itself “between a rock and a hard place”, with the 2012-13 budget set against tight fiscal constraints. It also needed to take steps to bring the budget back to surplus to protect its credit rating.
“Against this background it is not surprising to find a tight budget situation for IT," he said. "This year, new IT spending is hard to find. The announced public sector staffing cuts will hurt IT, both in terms of reduced IT staff numbers and in reduced IT demand.”
Alan Patterson, CEO of the Australian Computer Society, was less sanguine about ICT spending in the budget, arguing the government had neglected ICT to the detriment of the industry and the economy. According to the ACS, the ICT sector will contribute as much as 4.9 per cent to the NSW economy by 2020.
He believes investment into the ICT sector should have formed a stronger state budget focus in order to foster the development of the ICT workforce and allow it to grow to a $100 billion digital economy. “There are many areas in which state government [could] provide additional opportunities to support the development of the ICT sector, particularly amongst small businesses, which also provide an excellent return on investment,” Patterson said.
For example, he said less than two-thirds of Australian small and medium businesses have a website and the NSW government should be providing assistance to help them develop a digital presence.
With heavy spending announced in the budget in infrastructure projects, Patterson said ICT deserves its fair share, with education and skills in need of urgent attention.
“The information highway is as important to the state of the NSW economy as the Pacific Highway. This fact should therefore be adequately represented in the NSW state budget,” he said. "Time is of the essence to ensure we don’t lose the immense opportunities presented to almost every national sector by the digital economy."
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