Australia had a $22 billion ICT trade deficit at the end of last year, according to the Australian Computer Society.
The technology association said the ICT trade deficit has increased by about $750 million each year, more than $6 billion in total since the turn of the century.
An ACS report commissioned and authored by Victorian University Professor John Houghton found that IT exports fell by 11 per cent to $4.5 billion in 2009, accounting for 1.8 per cent of Australia's exports. During the dotcom boom in 2000, total IT exports would have been worth $7.2 billion in today's dollars.
Conversely, imports have continued to grow and cost almost $27 billion; IT goods and services accounted for about 11 per cent of Australia's total import debits.
Yet IT goods and services remain in the top 10 exports for Australia, with most hardware shipped to New Zealand, the United States, China, Singapore and United Kingdom.
ACS president Anthony Wong said Australia's IT exports have suffered under the global financial crisis (GFC).
"The combination of the GFC and a rising Australian dollar is a concern as our service exports have the potential to become less attractive if our dollar continues to increase," Wong said.
"We also need to urgently address skills shortages and ensure graduates are work-ready, so that Australia is not left behind.
"ICT is shaping our social and cultural landscape. Nowhere is this more evident than in the impact of the National Broadband Network for our sector."
Chief executive officer Bruce Lakin said the NBN will improve trade and help showcase local IT talent.
"We have great innovations like the Electronic Funds Transfer Point of Sale (EFTPOS), Wi-Fi technology, Google Maps, Bionic Ear and many more. We should continue to develop our ICT practitioners and build an internationally competitive ICT sector," Lakin said.
Summary of 2009 ICT trade figures and findings