​Taxation probe highlights government IT obstruction

While probing cloud accounting firm Xero, Labor MP Julie Owens revealed she is using a 15-year-old version of accounting software due to government IT restrictions.

Australian Labor Party MP Julie Owens has revealed during a Standing Committee on Tax and Revenue hearing on Friday that IT restrictions mandated by government have prevented her office from updating its accounting software in over 15 years.

"I have MYOB ... I've had it for like 15 years," she said during the House of Representatives probe.

"My old data file was so old there was only two of us left in the country with the old data file, but on the government computer we can't use the cloud because we can't upload the software, so it exists on my chief of staff's computer and I can't use it from my office -- it just drives me nuts."

The remarks were made while questioning Matthew Prouse, who is a partner solutions manager for New Zealand-based cloud accounting software firm Xero, on what government can do to bring small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) into the digital era, particularly when it comes to taxation requirements.

"We can't bring accounting into the golden age of IT unless a whole stack of people upgrade their IT," Owens explained. "60 percent of businesses in my community aren't even online for sales let alone really up to date with what you can do with cloud."

Owens was questioning if there is a role for government in increasing the number of businesses that are actively engaging in the digital realm.

"There are clearly hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of businesses whose IT systems and whose knowledge do not actually allow them to engage with the possibilities," she said to Prouse.

The Xero representative believes where there is a role for government is in the education of small businesses, around technology and security in particular.

"With respect to small business not having access to the latest technology being a blocker for the cloud, I disagree," he said.

"Fundamentally, if I have a web browser, I can use cloud computing."

Owens was quick to highlight that it is not the case within government.

While there are connectivity issues in Australia -- in regional Australia in particular, as rural NSW-based service delivery startup Rundl has highlighted previously -- Prouse said the adoption and success of things like 4G has effectively meant handheld devices, or tethering from those to a desktop or laptop, is "giving quite enough access to the internet".

"It is typically enough to use well-designed, well-architected cloud applications that are predominantly browser-based, like Xero," he said.

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