Industry body follows through on ICT wish-list

The Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) confirmed it is seeking responses from major political parties on key policy issues affecting the ICT industry in Australia.As foreshadowed to ZDNet Australia  , the AIIA has written to the major political parties asking to know about each party's ICT policy.

The Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) confirmed it is seeking responses from major political parties on key policy issues affecting the ICT industry in Australia.

As foreshadowed to ZDNet Australia  , the AIIA has written to the major political parties asking to know about each party's ICT policy.

AIIA chief executive, Rob Durie said, "It is important that the parties recognise the contribution ICT provides the Australian economy as a key enabler of other industries as well as a significant industry in its own right. ICT generates 8 percent of GDP and approximately half of GDP growth can be attributed to ICT."

"If Australia is to continue to maintain high-levels of growth, it is essential that Australia provides an attractive environment for the ICT industry. We have provided the parties with a 'manifesto' which discusses significant policy issues that confront the industry," Durie said.

In the manifesto, the AIIA is pushing for the removal of unlimited liability provisions in federal government procurement of ICT products and services. They also want to increase the commercialisation of Intellectual Property in federal procurement, improve opportunities for capital raising for local ICT industry companies, and for the parties to address Australia's opportunities in meeting the challenges of offshore outsourcing.

The information provided by the parties will be placed on the AIIA Web site for the scrutiny and consideration by the organisation's members. Durie said the aim is to ensure that AIIA members and the ICT community cast an "informed" vote on election day.

"As has been past practice of the association, political parties' policy responses to these issues will be evaluated and presented in a scorecard format, released during the last two weeks of the campaign. The aim is to ensure that our members, and the broader ICT community have a clearer understanding of the policies and drivers of the major parties and can cast a more informed vote on election day," Durie said.

"Our industry directly employs approximately 240,000 people, and indirectly employs at least that number again. AIIA seeks to understand each party's plans for the growth, development and prosperity of our industry, and the livelihood of the people employed in it," Durie said.

On the issue of open source software, the AIIA manifesto says that the ICT industry "does not support the introduction of legislative or other procurement preferences for any technology platform, including open source software".

Durie said the AIIA is "agnostic" about the issue saying "government buyers should, as with all ICT purchasing decisions, inform themselves of the available options and select that which best meets their business objectives and provides value for money."

"The introduction of open source preferences will not necessarily stimulate the growth and development of Australia's local ICT industry. While it may assist companies involved in open source software solutions, there are many Australian companies that develop software using proprietary models. It would not be appropriate to introduce discriminatory preferences that would impede their development. Similarly, it would not be appropriate to harm the many local companies whose business is to provide services and support for existing proprietary solutions."

The federal coalition recently announced its plans to continue encouraging the use of open source software as part of its e-government strategy to help agencies make "informed decisions" regarding IT needs.

In a statement, the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Helen Coonan, said the government would develop a range of tools to help government agencies "make informed decisions to suit their IT needs and get value for money".

Open source software was identified in the government's 2002 'Better services, Better Government' e-government strategy as providing opportunities for innovation, sharing of information technology, and potentially new market opportunities for small Australian businesses.

Shadow minister for ICT Kate Lundy also announced during a presentation to the Australian Unix Users Group (AUUG) early this month that Labor is "committed to removing the barriers facing smaller local companies wanting to compete for government contracts."

"Open standards are the foundation for efficient and interoperable IT systems, and will enable greater use of open source software in the public sector. It is important that open source software can compete fairly with other software in the market," Lundy said.

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