With more than 15 industry associations all representing the local IT industry, Australia's potential as a multi-billion-dollar offshoring destination is disappearing along with any chance of being a global technology player.
This is the view of Australian Computer Society (ACS) president Edward Mandla who wants to see the long list of competing industry groups replaced with a single agency similar to the Indian-based National Association of Software and Services Companies (Nasscom).
Mandla said the agency could exploit the growth in knowledge process outsourcing (KPO) over the next five years which will be worth $16 billion by 2010. Nasscom represents the Indian software industry and the ACS says a similar peak body for Australia is critical to reduce the trade deficit, increase multinational participation and local collaboration, to create and market a global brand and to encourage ICT investment in Australia.
Mandla said offshoring isn't a threat but an opportunity, one that Australia hasn't been able to capture.
"Offshore outsourcing of processes has so far been characterized by considerable community anxiety and apprehension within Australia," Mandla said.
"Global offshoring has moved to the next level and we need the support of government and industry to capture the opportunities; phase one was basic administrative and processing tasks. Phase two is knowledge-based analytics. As a medium-cost destination, Australia is ideally suited to take on knowledge-based, ICT-enabled analytics services.
"Despite this opportunity, Australia is not seen as a top-of-mind destination. There's a tangible need for a national agency to represent the interests of government and industry to develop a long-term strategy for the Australian ICT sector, facilitate international partnerships and promote the benefits of onshoring work to Australia."
Mandla said Australia has more than 15 "under-funded" associations delivering mixed messages. Claiming they rely on volunteers, he said they all have competing state and federal interests and there is no government policy exploiting opportunities for local industry.
Last week the ACS released its Onshoring Policy which identified four opportunities for growth in the next five years including financial services, strategic business intelligence and research, risk and quality management and R&D.
Asked about lack of government support, a spokesperson for IT Minister Helen Coonan said it is up to industry to clarify its representation.
"The government already receives advice and input on ICT issues from industry associations and stakeholders; it is up to industry to resolve how it wants to be represented to ensure it makes a robust contribution," the spokesperson said.