ACS and AIIA dispute govt IT spending

Two major infotech interest groups are at loggerheads over how much the Federal Government is buying from Australian-owned technology companies.

The Australian Computer Society and the Australian Information Industry Association are miles apart in their assessments of the figure.

ACS president John Ridge believes local suppliers currently capture as little as five per cent of total Federal Government purchasing on information and communications technology (ICT) goods and services.

AIIA executive director Rod Durie labels that estimate 'unbelievable' and claims it is nearer 20 per cent.

Both organisations are part of the ICT Alliance, a loose coalition of interests, which attempted to present a more effective industry front to political parties during the election campaign.

Their diverging views on locally-oriented spending highlights the difficulties of creating a unified industry voice.

Officially, about 10 per cent of Federal purchasing on ICT is being captured by local companies and the objective is to raise that to 20 per cent.

However, reality lags well behind whatever target figures are adopted, Ridge claims "I reckon if we are getting 5 per cent locally, it would be amazing. The target needs to be higher in order to approach the levels that need to happen."

Outsourcing of government services to a provider sector dominated by multinationals is not helping the equation, according to Ridge.

"If you outsource your ICT to a US-headquartered company, where are they going to source their product from?

"It defies logic that they won't go overseas for it unless [local sourcing] is written into the contract and monitored closely."

The AIIA believes that "probably 20 per cent and maybe more" of Federal Government ICT spending is already going to Australian-owned SMEs.

"And in the outsourcing contracts area, we think more like 25 per cent is going to Australian-owned companies," Durie said.

To argue that Australian SMEs are getting 10 per cent or less of the Federal Government purchasing action is "a joke", he says.

Both groups agree government purchases account for about 40 per cent of overall spending on ICT goods and services in Australia.

The AIIA also agrees that whatever the amount captured by Australian-owned companies, "we ought to be doing everything short of government regulation to grow that number," Durie says.

For example, it must be made cheaper and easier for small business to sell into the government market. That would include ending commercially untenable government contractual practices such as the imposition of unlimited liability.

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