Govt to quiz 'sectoral behaviour' of digital economy

The federal government has plans to fill "big gaps" in its knowledge about IT usage in specific sectors of Australia's digital economy.

The federal government has plans to fill "big gaps" in its knowledge about IT usage in specific sectors of Australia's digital economy.

The Department of Broadband Communications and Digital Economy last week released a tender for a consultant to start digging deeper into how the Web is being used by individual business sectors in Australia.

While the federal government has general data from sources such as the Australian Bureau of Statistics about the level of broadband access, and year-on-year comparisons of the total value of online transactions, it lacks comparative analyses to show how effectively one sector is using technology compared to others.

Ian Birks, interim CEO for AIIA told ZDNet.com.au that such research would help address severe knowledge shortfalls in government.

"I think there is a big gap in terms of knowledge in government regarding the true impact that ICT technologies have in the wider community and business. One of the biggest challenges ... is getting the message across that ICT can be transformational and that is a whole lot more than computers in schools. The value of this research is they can get a real understanding of ICT in some vertical industries," he said.

Birks also added that while research into ICT's cost is plentiful, its benefits are seldom considered.

Dr Bruce McCabe, managing director of research firm, S2 Intelligence, said this tender shows the government's attitude to technology is "maturing", adding that the results should be more useful than year-on-year comparisons of the value of online transactions.

"The technology benefits are not about how many transactions there are on the internet. The benefits are to free up employees to do something more valuable or do we have a bigger export market into China because of that? We must be careful and not confuse the means with the ends," McCabe told ZDNet.com.au.

But John Brand, managing director of technology analyst firm Hydrasight, says the government needs to first solve the big issue of broadband connectivity.

"Once that connectivity issue is solved, then look at core services that could be provided to assist businesses to use the channel more effectively," he told ZDNet.com.au. "I'm surprised that broadband has never been seen as a major national infrastructure project the way other projects have been treated in this country."

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