The Australian Internet Industry Association (AIIA) has criticised the government for moving slowly on ICT innovation, urging it to act now or risk hindering Australia’s ability to compete in the global digital economy.
At the release of its Smart ICT 2013 Election Platform in Sydney, the AIIA outlined its ICT policy recommendations for the upcoming federal election, which include:
• Drive uptake of the national broadband infrastructure and provide open access to government data by default
• Amend the tax treatment of employee share options plans (ESOP) to realise benefits before tax liabilities are applied
• Create targeted tax incentives to encourage 90 per cent of small and medium sized businesses to engage in the digital economy
• Continue the 457 visa migration program to help fill skill gaps and invest in a national ICT skills development program targeted at STEM courses to increase university and TAFE enrolments by 40 per cent
• Raise tax incentives for Australian companies developing ICT R&D and forge better links between research and industry
• Fund and resource the ABS to collect, monitor and report ICT metrics and engage the AIIA in analysing and making recommendations.
AIIA’s deputy chairman, Andrew Stevens, said there’s an idea in Australia that we are “punching above our weight” when it comes to applying new technologies in both government and business. However, he said that is not the case.
“In the application of technology, the World Economic Forum rates us poor. That means we are in the bottom third. We think we are punching above our weight, the world thinks we are not,” Steven said.
“Are we going to have to have a calamity to realise that we need to get and apply technology in an innovative way? Or, are we going to get on with it?
“I think [when it comes to] innovation, it’s on the demand side that we really need to be working on because the supply side is there. There’s actually no evidence that we are in a bad position and I’ve looked at all the innovation reports, OECD, World Economic Forum, you name it.
"We looked at where we rate for things like availability of venture capital and equity funding and we are actually OK. Not the best, and not the worst.”
AIIA chairman Kee Wong agreed with Stevens, adding that the government hasn’t done enough in preparing Australia for the post resources and mining boom.
“Australia cannot sit on its [current] model and say that we have a god given right in this part of the world that is hungry and competitive, and we sit on our model on what nature has given us as natural resources. We have to create our own future.
“In this election year, what we need is both sides of the politics to get the importance that technology plays in Australia’s future prosperity.”
Wong said the understanding of how to “qualify risk” when it comes to technology investments is not yet well understood and therefore contributes to the slow progress in ICT innovation.
Rober Hillard, AIIA member, added that the government is naturally “very nervous about” blowing money on IT projects that may fail, taking a cautious approach to investment. However, he said that does not mean that Australia can afford to take it’s time in “getting the settings right to encourage innovation”.
In February, the Australian Computer Society said it would like to see the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) extend mandatory study of technology beyond Year 8 as part of this year’s election discussions. It also would like to see how the government will support teachers in delivering the technology curriculum to students.