Roach quashes intelligent island closure reports

Tasmania's AU$40 million Intelligent Island program has not closed its doors, but instead has extended its activities to include e-health projects. This occurred after planning for the State's proposed bio-informatics centre of excellence led to a re-evaluation of how to achieve the program's objective of fostering local ICT companies and improving the efficiency of the State's economy through increased use of IT.

Tasmania's AU$40 million Intelligent Island program has not closed its doors, but instead has extended its activities to include e-health projects.

This occurred after planning for the State's proposed bio-informatics centre of excellence led to a re-evaluation of how to achieve the program's objective of fostering local ICT companies and improving the efficiency of the State's economy through increased use of IT.

-As a result of a very extensive due diligence process, the board had earlier concluded that the centre itself and the Tasmanian ICT industry in general would benefit significantly if the scope of the centre's research was expanded to cover both bioinformatics and health informatics," said Intelligent Island's Chairman Neville Roach, taking pains to correct media reports that the program has been closed and will not distribute the AU$20 million remaining in its kitty.

"The global bioinformatics market is worth around AU$5 billion globally," he said. -But the part of the market Tasmania could participate in - areas like bio-informatics tools, pattern recognition, the manipulation and management of large databases based on the human genome - was around 5-10 percent of the total".

The largest slice of the bioinformatics market, Roach said, was in hardware. -We don't expect Tasmania to build supercomputers," he said. But Tasmania can succeed in e-health, he said, because it is ideally suited to trialing such technology.

-Tasmania is a microcosm of Australia. It is small in population but quite big. It has metropolitan, regional and remote populations. The problems that need to be solved if we are to deliver remote management of health and other things under the banners of telemedicine and e-health can be tested there."

The shift to e-health has already been embraced by the State's nascent community, which has established an E-Health Association to work with the centre of excellence.

E-health research, Roach said, is hoped to bear fruit in the medium term, making it an ideal area for Intelligent Island's long-planned shift from activities designed to deliver results in the short term- such as the State ICT directory established at www.intelligentisland.com.au - to work which will deliver benefits over longer periods.

-No research program is static," Roach concluded. -The [bioinformatics] area that we picked is still relevant and significant but is no longer sufficient alone to achieve our objectives. Health informatics is an allied area and is well worth pursuing to meet our goals."

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