Labor creates internal digital policy group

Labor MP Ed Husic has announced the creation of a group within the Labor party to advance the interests of the IT sector in policy making.

In order to foster Australia's information technology future, Labor MP Ed Husic has announced the creation of a group for the advancement of IT sector interests in policy making.

In a speech to parliament this week, Husic spoke about the importance of nurturing the digital economy, quoting statistics from an IBM report "A Snapshot of Australia's Digital Future to 2050", which said that high-speed broadband and online information is expected to deliver $131 billion to the Australian economy this year.

He also reminded listeners that in its National Digital Economy Strategy released in 2011, the government had voiced its desire that Australia be one of the world's leading digital economies by 2020.

"Right now, our digital economy has two powerful advantages working in its favour: our investment in the NBN [National Broadband Network] and our strong economy," Husic said.

"We need to think ahead: determining how to extract the maximum benefit from the NBN, for communities, businesses and our economy."

It was for this reason, he said, that the Labor party set up the Labor Digital Economy Group. The group is tasked with "championing" the ICT sector within government, pushing initiatives to advance the interests of the IT industry within policy-making circles.

Husic named skill shortages in the ICT sector as one of the issues the group would address.

"We are confronting major shortages in ICT industry professionals, which is compounded by shrinking ICT university enrolments, reduced skilled migration, an ageing workforce and community misconceptions about the opportunities and rewards associated with ICT careers," he said.

"We have been presented with a massive opening where we can encourage young Australians to enter this sector and meet an urgent need. Having Skills Australia tasked to develop sector-specific plans will be critical, helping funnel students through vocational and tertiary pathways."

He said that the new group's mission of promoting a digital Australia had attracted the support of Members and Senators keen to prepare Australia for a "post-NBN environment".

"We need to confront this challenge and champion this sector to make sure we remain one of the world's smartest nations an innovative country with a richer, longer-term future for our community and our economy."

Full membership details of the group are to be released by the end of the week, Husic said.

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