Industry stresses inter-departmental govt cooperation

Comms Alliance calls for cabinet committee on digital economy

As the search for a minority government raises proposals of parliamentary reform, industry bodies have again stressed the need for cooperation between government departments in order to maximise the benefits of a digital economy.

Telco industry representative body, Communications Alliance, has proposed a Cabinet Committee, that, chaired by the Prime Minister, would oversee cooperation on all matters relating to the digital economy that would otherwise relate to individual departments such as communications, industry, health, employment, energy and education.

“We see many good Digital Economy initiatives underway in individual departments and agencies at the Federal and State level, but the new Prime Minister needs to get personally involved and ensure that Australia can benefit fully from the synergies and productivity gains that will come from aligning all the sectors of Government responsibility,” the body’s Chief Executive Officer, John Stanton said in a statement.

Communications Alliance’s proposal comes in a similar strain to the desire for a Productivity Ministry voiced by another industry body, the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA). In a manifesto released prior to the Federal election last month, the body lobbied for a minister that would ensure greater productivity in government by overseeing the otherwise siloed activities of individual Federal government departments where necessary.

“There isn’t a lot of communication between the Department of Innovation and Industry, and the Department of Broadband and the other key sector portfolios like health, education and energy,” AIIA chief executive, Ian Birks, told Computerworld Australia.

The views of the AIIA and Communications Alliance echo the Australian Computer Society’s desire for a greater focus on ICT, but the bodies’ view split ways when it comes to how this would be enacted.

"Essentially, we think that the key messages of our industry really are better achieved through a more holistic view of where technology plays a role rather than narrowing it to specifically an ICT focus,” Birks said.

In a press conference hosted by the AIIA, communications minister, Stephen Conroy acknowledged the industry’s concerns, and vowed he would “tackle the bureaucracy” once the election was settled on the matter.

"I know the industry has been calling for there to be a consolidation and I think that's a very positive thing. It's not easy being right there across so many different departments,” he said.

Primarily occupied with the telecommunications sector rather than the entire ICT community, Communications Alliance has a greater focus on key policies such as the National Broadband Network (NBN), where it has played a large part in drafting and publishing guidelines and reference models for various aspects of the rollout.

Stanton told Computerworld Australia the working group would continue to forge ahead regardless of whether Labor or Liberal formed a minority government. However, last week he called for greater coherence from all sides of debate on broadband matters, in order to ensure high speed broadband was available to all Australians at affordable prices, remote and regional end users continued to gain support, and an accompanying regulatory regime that provided open access to all industry participants.

“To deliver on these objectives, Communications Alliance believes that there must be a long term strategy to replace the copper based network with a next generation open access solution.  In undertaking an assessment on what is the best long term approach, all access technologies should be considered including fibre, wireless and satellite,” Stanton said.

His comments come as key wireless and fibre players last week issued an “NBN 3.0” proposal through an open letter in order to urge new public debate over specific aspects of Labor’s current project.

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