Ahead of Treasurer Wayne Swan delivering his fourth Federal Budget tomorrow night, the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) has released its wish list for what it thinks the government should focus its ICT investment on for the next 12 months.
Continuing investment in e-health tops the AIIA list. The association has called for an expansion on the e-health trial sites, as well as investment in other e-health initiatives such as real-time telehealth and cloud computing trials in the health and aged care sectors. In the 2010/2011 Federal Budget, the government allocated $466.7 million of e-health initiatives that will ultimately lead to the creation of personally controlled e-health records for Australians in July 2012.
In the 12 months since the announcement, the government has funded trials in three test sites in Brisbane, Melbourne and the Hunter, and has begun looking at expanding that trial with a number of new sites. The government's National E-Health Transition Authority has also begun consultations with software vendors to develop standards for the sharing of patient information as part of the e-health roll-out.
Cloud computing should be a focus across the board in government, according to the AIIA, which believed the government should advance its spend. In the past year the government has begun looking into investing in cloud-related services, issuing its draft cloud strategy in January this year. The AIIA has previously criticised the government for being overly cautious with its cloud strategy, but the government pointed to the recent Amazon outage as vindication for its position.
Swan has indicated that this year's budget will be tight, with limited spending and some cuts to ensure that Labor delivers on its election promise of having the Budget back in surplus by the 2012-2013 financial year. The AIIA has asked the government to avoid making these cuts to the ICT sector.
"Investment by Australian government and business fell 50 per cent in the seven years to 2007. Multi-factor productivity has been in decline over the same period," the AIIA said.
The AIIA said the government should increase the levels of skilled migration back to numbers before the onset of the Global Financial Crisis. In May last year, the Federal Government revised its skilled-migration list to recruit more workers with skills in ICT and telecommunications in order to address the labour shortage in Australia. Although Swan has yet to address whether the intake of these sorts of migrants will be increased as part of the Budget, he has already committed to increasing the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme intake by an additional 6000 migrants.
The government should follow up on its reforms in research and development subsidies, with further investment in the scheme in order to drive innovation, according to the AIIA. The government's Product Stewardship legislation funding an e-waste national collection and recycling scheme should also receive some attention in the Budget and the program should be accelerated, it said. Businesses should also be given incentives to encourage the use of green ICT that reduces their carbon footprint, the association said.
Finally, the AIIA said that the government must provide funding for improving productivity, as the mining boom was "masking declining productivity across the board".
Despite the extensive wish list, the AIIA said it would be hard to predict what would make it into the Budget. The association also did not make any predictions as to what the treasurer may have in store for the ICT sector in the Budget tomorrow night.