The Australian Computer Society (ACS) has called for the creation of an ICT Ministerial Advisory Council to better inform the next federal government about the digital economy and how to tackle major industry challenges.
The formation of the council, which would also help coordinate state and federal ICT assistance programs, is one of five recommendations the ACS is advancing as part of its 2013 election agenda. The agenda also seeks to get both sides of politics to better recognise the role ICT plays in Australia’s wider economy.
According to the ACS, more than 550,000 Australians now work in ICT, while the digital economy contributes more to the country’s GDP than mining. However, a lack of government focus on how best to use Australia’s digital infrastructure risks the performance of both the digital and wider economies, the industry body claims.
“For too long Australia has believed the myth that mining and agriculture are the only paths that can continue to grow our economy,” ACS president, Dr Nick Tate, said in a statement.
“Like our regional partners, we need to recognise that the Digital Economy has become the key component of the economy, and we need Government to support this vital growth area.”
Along with better quality advice, the industry body argues that the Federal Government must urgently move to reverse the decline in ICT skills and the number of students studying ICT. Possible measures to address this include reforming school ICT curricula, greater training support in ICT for teachers, and ICT training and support for mature-aged workers.
The ACS is also arguing for minimum levels of digital literacy to be set, particularly among small and medium businesses and not for profit organisations.
Better quality data on the digital economy is also required, the ACS says. One method to achieve this would be a collaborative project with the Australian Bureau of Statistics and industry stakeholders.
Open data, both as a means of more transparent government, and as a source of innovation is also required.
“Whilst open data promotes transparency, the real ‘sleeper’ is that it is also provides a platform for innovation,” the ACS’s election manifesto states.
“It enables smart ICT professionals to develop new products and services which deliver better outcomes for our communities.”
For its part, the telecommunications industry recently welcomed the appointment of deputy prime minister, Anthony Albanese, to the communications minister role, but stressed that it wanted the government to re-examine existing NBN policy decisions and competition settings.