Aussie IT firms call for govt support

IT leaders in Australia are pressing for the country's federal government to take a more active role in nurturing the local IT sector.

IT leaders in Australia are pressing for the country's federal government to take a more active role in nurturing the local IT sector next year.

"We need to see political leaders taking some action in 2003," said John Thompson, managing director of customer relationship management software maker Point Australia.

"Graduates from computer science courses are having difficulties finding work due to the current climate. There is a huge untapped knowledge base that is going to waste," said Thompson.

As suggested by Alan Greig, CEO of Australia-based rapid application development tools provider Prophecy International, the government can encourage the adoption of homegrown IT solutions instead of opting for overseas alternatives to support the local industry.

"This has positive ramifications for the nation, not just the IT sector," Greig said.

Without commenting on whether local suppliers will be favored over their international counterparts, Richard Alston, the federal minister for IT and communications, said: "The government is working to better educate business and government on the effective purchase and use of ICT (info-communications and technology) solutions."

Recent initiatives include the A$129 million (US$73 million) ICT Center of Excellence and the A$76 million (US$43 million) Building on IT Strengths incubator program.

Alston noted that the recent passing of Venture Capital Limited Partnerships legislation will also serve to improve the IT industry. "Australia now has a world's-best-practise environment for venture capital investment, and this should reap significant rewards in 2003."

Such measures are welcomed by industry pundits such as Paul Magee, managing director of Australia-based speech recognition solutions provider VeCommerce, who is among a number of local industry representatives calling for more government involvement in the development of breakthrough technologies.

"In 2003, the government will continue to deliver on its commitment to foster the growth of innovation and improved services and technology in the ICT sector, thereby benefiting the economy as a whole," said Alston.

If Alston's new year resolutions are anything to go by, 2003 will be a good year for Australian IT research and development.

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