Digital economy should be on NSW govt agenda, says ACS

Australian Computer Society urges NSW government to establish a digital economy ministry

The Australian Computer Society (ACS) has called for the establishment of a digital economy ministry and more support for startups in its NSW election policy statement.

“To help build a world-leading digital economy, ACS urges the incoming NSW government to establish a dedicated digital economy ministry headed by a cabinet minister,” the society said.

The ACS's proposals mirror those it made prior to the Queensland and Victorian state elections.

Under the AC's proposal, to help the cabinet minister, the government should also establish a digital ministerial advisory council. The council would provide the minister with access to expertise, experience and insights from the ICT community.

For example, the council could provide advice on:

  • The demand and supply for ICT skills

  • Digital literacy of the workforce

  • Workforce development planning with a focus on researching the ICT skills and qualifications NSW is likely to need in the next five to 10 years given the disruption being created by rapidly advancing technologies.

According to the ACS, membership of the council should include representatives from ACS, the ICT industry, employer representative groups, the education sector, startups and relevant community groups.

Turning to startups, the ACS cited a 2013 report (PDF) by PwC on the startup economy which forecast that the sector could contribute $109 billion to the Australian economy and 540,000 jobs by 2033.

PwC also estimated that 64 per cent of Australia's startups are based in NSW.

“With the right policy settings, the NSW economy could grow by over $50 billion off the back of this critical sector,” said the ACS.

According to the PwC report, 29 per cent of startup founders had a computing science degree.

“The incoming NSW government must place a high priority on initiatives that will encourage more school students to pursue ICT and computing science studies. Amongst them is the need to mandate a digital technologies curriculum from foundation to Year 10,” the ACS said.

To help ensure NSW has an adequate supply of skilled ICT professionals, the next state government needs to ensure there is a far stronger emphasis on learning and using digital technologies in the education system.

The ACS also recommended that the NSW government, industry, employer and education stakeholders should work collaboratively to help ICT students get more exposure to work-integrated learning.

“The objective is to make graduates more work-ready by ensuring they possess the important soft skills like project management, problem solving, stakeholder management, strategic and creative thinking,” said the ACS.

Finally, the ACS recommended that small to medium enterprises (SMEs) get more support with understanding IT.

“The incoming NSW government should move beyond the usual education and awareness type campaigns governments have typically pursued. ACS instead suggests a hands on program which works with individual businesses to benchmark their digital literacy and identify their specific areas of weakness.”

Based on the benchmarking results, the program could help build relationships between the businesses and relevant ICT suppliers/professionals, said the society.

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

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