Smart cards are a smart little earner

Australia's smart card industry is valued at approximately $450 million, of which exports account for approximately $390 million.

These are the findings of an industry survey conducted by the National Office for the Information Economy (NOIE) and the Asia Pacific Smart Card Forum (APSCF) in late 1999.

The survey also found that the industry employed 1300 people, and companies are predominantly small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Of the surveyed companies, 23 per cent had 10 or less employees, and 54 per cent had less than 50 employees.

Most companies in the industry are also relatively young, not surprising given the nature of the technology, with 56 per cent having commenced operations in the last 10 years.

The survey also found that companies invest approximately 12 per cent of their revenue in smart card research and development; and 36.6 per cent have accessed Commonwealth Government assistance programs in the last five years, including the Export Market Development Grants Scheme, the Computer Bounty, R&D Start Grants, R&D Tax Concessions, and the Start Plus Program.

The survey also identified some of the challenges which smart card companies face, including the slow uptake of smart card technology by banks and other potentially major smart card scheme operators; inadequate infrastructure; lack of progress with the standardisation of processing systems; poor interoperability across systems and boundaries; and difficult access to capital for SMEs.

Established in September 1995, the APSCF exists to promote the development of the smart card industry in Australia and to position the country as a leading supplier of smart card technology and applications. The forum now has more than 70 members from the industry and government.

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