ACS lauds most of the ALP's ICT policy

The Australian Computer Society (ACS) has lauded some of the initiatives in the Australian Labor Party's ICT policy, but remarked that taking ICT industry development back to the Industry Department would be a "backward step".ACS president Edward Mandla said the organisation was pleased with the overall policy framework of the ALP, announced this week by ICT spokesperson Kate Lundy.

The Australian Computer Society (ACS) has lauded some of the initiatives in the Australian Labor Party's ICT policy, but remarked that taking ICT industry development back to the Industry Department would be a "backward step".

ACS president Edward Mandla said the organisation was pleased with the overall policy framework of the ALP, announced this week by ICT spokesperson Kate Lundy. However, it is calling for a greater "cohesion in the structure of the Department of Communications Information Technology and the Arts portfolio and more emphasis on promoting the benefits of the ICT industry to the community".

"Overall we feel this is a worthwhile policy framework that has the potential to deliver for our industry on many levels. There is evidence -- from the detail around small/medium enterprise and software initiatives to the open source content -- that Senator Lundy has taken the time to develop a grassroots understanding of the people and players in our industry," Mandla said.

However, Mandla stated that taking ICT industry development back to the Industry Department would not be good step for the industry.

"On the negative side, we see the proposal to take ICT industry development back to the Industry Department as a backwards step. The convergence of information and communications technologies is a reality and the industry should not have to talk to three ministers or department heads about its initiatives. ICT is sufficiently important to society, the economy and national security to merit a Cabinet level portfolio," he said.

In terms of ICT purchasing practices, Mandla said the government needs to undergo a "cultural change" since incubators and R&D would only be a waste of money if the government departments and major corporations will not invest in the end product.

"Too often, R&D grants force the recipient into buying more infrastructure, rather than hiring the best talent. There needs to be greater recognition that money must be set aside for our young organisations to hire the best sales and marketing forces so that they can effectively compete with their multinational rivals," he said.

Mandla commended the ALP's plan to review the ICT skills migration program saying that it goes along with the ACS's current undertaking. The ACS will be issuing a policy statement regarding its research on the issue later this year.

Mandla also lauded the education and skills initiatives in the ALP policy saying that that it is important that each teacher is up to date with the computers and new technology.

"We agree that education and industry policy go hand in hand. Our children deserve a productive life and high living standards. Education systems must continually strive to ensure that they are using the best technology, and that each teacher is up to date on exactly how computers can enhance their subject area. It should be a matter of national embarrassment that many school children know more about ICT than the person at the front of the classroom teaching them about the subject," he said.

As for the issue of exports, ACS believes the there should be a policy that makes ICT companies successful in Australia first to give them a strong foundation to be sustainable exporters.

"Multinationals starting up in Australia typically have a successful track record at home and are often in a position to engage in aggressive market tactics to build sales, based on a strong record of sales to their own government departments and large accounts," Mandla said.

-We are keen to see the detail in the R&D policy. The future of our industry is in intellectual property, and IP needs support in its creation, commercialisation and protection. We must have a policy which spells out how we can encourage a risk-taking environment - and nurture ideas through to commercial reality.

ALP recently announced that they would institute an AU$70 million national information policy, branded E-Australia, if placed in government.

E-Australia is the centerpiece of the Labor Party's ICT policy which includes the creation of a new group, E-Australia: Government IT and Online (GITO) to replace the existing Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO).

Lundy said E-Australia would oversee five bodies: Australia Online, Safety Online, Small Business Online, Citizenship Online, and GITO.

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