What the tech industry expects of Gillard

Most of the information and communications technology industry seemed positive about a Gillard future for Australia following the Labor leadership spill yesterday.

Most of the information and communications technology industry seemed positive about a Gillard future for Australia following the Labor leadership spill yesterday.

Telstra was positive in its feedback regarding Gillard's rise to Prime Minister and is already taking proactive steps to cement an amiable relationship with her office. "The CEO and the chairman will be writing to Ms Gillard to congratulate her on her elevation to the Prime Ministership. Telstra looks forward to working with her and her government," the company said in a statement.

Communications giant Optus was not phased by the changes and remained fixed on the fact that Gillard will continue to stand by the National Broadband Network scheme.

An Optus spokesperson said, "Optus looks forward to continuing to work with the Federal Government to implement the National Broadband Network and put in place important regulatory reform in the telecommunications sector."

Internet Industry Association CEO Peter Coroneos was hesitant in predicting any changes at this early stage, but remained confident that the NBN would go ahead as planned.

"It is too early to tell what the implications will be. She did restate her commitment to the NBN so we don't see that changing, though the prospects of further enabling legislation passing before the election is remote," he said. "There is the need for a cabinet reshuffle, but the extent would likely be minimal given the proximity to the election."

The CEO stated that the IIA supported the NBN and E-Security National Agenda (ESNA) — the Australian Government initiative created in 2001 to secure public and private Australia from any electronic nasties.

"We differ only in our view on the mandatory [internet service provider] filtering policy, the effectiveness of which we question. But again we will likely not see legislation in that area this year."

Tracey Fellows, managing director of Microsoft Australia, gave Gillard props for her new role as PM and encompassed the implications such a powerful female role model will have on Australian women.

"Julia Gillard's appointment as Prime Minister is a historic moment for Australia and for Australian women. Having a female Prime Minister provides a strong role model and will inspire young women to pursue their dreams and aim high in their careers. Microsoft is committed to supporting and celebrating opportunities for women in the workplace and public life, and we congratulate Julia Gillard on becoming the first woman Prime Minister of Australia," she said.

The Australian Information Industry Association's CEO Ian Birks said the AIIA believed that former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd had a good understanding of the ICT sector and how important it was to the future of Australia and that Gillard would keep on that path.

"At this moment the leadership change will most likely not have a substantive effect on the sector, certainly not before the election. The only likely change we anticipate is very clear messaging on the benefits of the NBN and the difference in position between the government and opposition on this major project."

However, Birks also called for the government to appoint a chief technology officer as some other national governments have done.

"AIIA would like to see the PM give some consideration for the appointment of a new chief technology officer, who — in a similar fashion to the Obama administration appointment — would provide an over-arching view of the positive transformational impact of ICT can have on all major portfolios and related policies/programs," he said. "ICT is game changer and will be the key underpinning for the future success of Australia. We are keen to see the technology sector identified as an area of specific economic focus for Australia."

This year was pivotal for the tech industry, he said. "If there is a broad ministerial restructure, we would be keen to see a separate junior minister appointed to the Digital Economy — given its impact on our economic future."

"As the minister responsible for both education and youth, Julia Gillard would recognise the growing importance of technology in our schools — allowing us to successfully compete with other nations who are heavily investing in this area of education."

Bruce Lakin, the chief executive officer of the Australian Computer Association (ACA) talked of the importance of training up the older age bracket in the workforce with emerging technologies and that he would like to see this take place as a new initiative under Gillard.

"Another important issue requiring urgent national attention is skills and in particular the impact of an ageing workforce," he said. "Prime Minister Gillard's work in the area of social inclusion provides important background in this important topic. Employer incentives for ICT training and retraining are needed to address skills gaps. We are keen to see national programs encouraging mature workers to stay in the employment market, and addressing ageism."

(Front page image credit: Julia Gillard image by Adam Carr, public domain)

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