Tasmania gets innovation, science and technology portfolio

New ministry set up under new government after committment given in election campaign

Tasmania will get a new innovation, science and technology portfolio as part of the new government to be announced by Premier David Bartlett.

The idea to create the portfolio was flagged at an Australian Computer Society (ACS) forum on the island state's ICT policy approach in February.

“The Premier made the commitment during the election that there would be such a person and the new cabinet will be sworn in tomorrow,” a spokesperson for the Premier told Computerworld Australia.

Further details on who will take responsibility for the portfolio and what its remit will be were not provided.

During election campaigning both the Greens and Liberals called for an ICT-specific Minister in the island state, with the Liberals also committing to create creating chief information officer and chief technology officer roles.

However, Bartlett pushed for the new portfolio approach and the spokesperson was not aware of any plans to introduce a CIO or CTO position.

The political uncertainty and intrigue caused by the election, that almost saw the Labor party lose power, has meant a short delay in progressing plans for the portfolio.

Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) CEO, Ian Birks, welcomed the move as a step forward for the ICT industry.

"In a Tasmanian context because they are starting to reap some of the early benefits of the NBN and the digital economy rollout, it is a logical progression to focus ministerial activity on achieving more of those benefits," Birks said.

"I think our experience has shown across Australia, where you have a minister charged with repsonsibility for innovatin or technology, it brings a much greater impact in terms of the wider thinking of technology.

"The positive impact is not just to have the minister, but that minister and the department can start to influence the behaviour of other departments in a positive way. We have seen that in Victoria over the last five to eight years.

"Where that isn't happening is in NSW."

The state has been somewhat of a pioneer for the Federal Government’s National Broadband Network (NBN) plan - which was supported by all parties – and Bartlett has consistently called for the state to become the most "connected place on the planet" with 85-90 per cent of premises connected to the Internet by optic fibre.

The Tasmanian NBN rollout was officially announced in July last year. The project involves the construction of a seven kilometre fibre optic transmission link between Aurora Energy's Cambridge Data Centre and Midway Point.

Work officially commenced in September, with the first cables being laid in five-year-old foundations.

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