Baillieu airs $85m plan for Vic ICT

The Victorian Government has taken the lid off an $85 million ICT attraction and development plan to ensure that the tech industry continues to invest in the local economy.
Written by Luke Hopewell, Contributor

The Victorian Government has taken the lid off an $85 million ICT attraction and development plan to ensure that the tech industry continues to invest in the local economy.

The state government has broken Victoria's technology priorities down into three areas: information and communication technology, biotechnology, and small technologies. The strategy is designed to improve efficiency in Victoria, according to Premier Ted Baillieu and Minister for Technology Gordon Rich-Phillips, as the state's population begins to slow.

The plan will see $85 million worth of government money pumped into the state's ICT sector, aiming to add 1000 new staff in Victoria's ICT workforce, and increase the value of the state's technology export market to $150 million per annum. Adding 1000 staff to the state's ICT workforce will see the local headcount expand to approximately 88,000 people working in software and services, network engineering, telecommunications and research. Adding $150 million to the ICT export market will see the state government show off local technology achievements in key international markets like Silicon Valley in the US.

The Victorian Government is also looking to get on the front foot with local take-up of the National Broadband Network (NBN). The government wants 1 million homes and businesses to take-up a "high-capacity broadband service by 2015".

Victoria's embracing of the NBN comes as the latest salvo in a series of mixed messages from the new Coalition Government. When the Baillieu-led coalition took power in the December 2010 election whitewash, the new premier pledged conditional support to the network.

Yet Rich-Phillips later said that he opposed the opt-out strategy proposed by the NBN Co, meaning that residents who wanted to be connected to the government's fast broadband network would have to put their hand up for it as it was deployed in their suburb.

The Coalition Government now appears to have put party politics aside and is fully behind leveraging the benefits of the NBN to power the local ICT strategy.

"[The NBN] has the potential to generate a number of short-term opportunities associated with the network's deployment. As well as opening up opportunities for ICT businesses, the NBN should also generate new ICT-enabled solutions and services for businesses in a wide range of other industries over the longer term.

"The Victorian Government will work closely with the ICT sector to support Victorian businesses in pursuing opportunities associated with the NBN project. In particular, the government will support businesses to leverage the location of the NBN Co National Operations Centre in Melbourne to access major supply contracts as the network is rolled out," the government strategy document reads.

Other ICT initiatives set for a government cash boost include $11 million for a Digital Futures Fund to support collaborative emerging technology projects in the ICT sector and an $18 million grants program to fund business projects that leverage high-capacity broadband called the Broadband-Enabled Innovation Program.

The Coalition Government has also uncharacteristically highlighted the previous Labor government's record of attracting ICT investment to the state, framing it in a positive light.

"Victoria's ICT sector has achieved a great deal in recent decades, becoming a major source of ICT research and building strengths in software and services, telecommunications and interactive media," the two said in a joint statement, adding that the train of progress needs to continue.

"But, as with all new technologies, the pace of change is rapid and new ICT functions, devices and applications are emerging on an almost daily basis. A relatively small local market also means that Victoria's ICT businesses must be outward looking, with a strong export focus," the two added.

In the lead-up to the December 2010 election, the then-Labor government outed a similar plan for attracting ICT to Victoria worth $110 million in state funding.

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