Calls for Inquiry into IT Pricing findings to be adopted

Adopting the key recommendations of the Inquiry into IT Pricing report will increase Australians' access to technology, ACS, CHOICE, ACCAN say.
Written by Tim Lohman, Contributor

The Australian Computer Society (ACS), and consumer groups ACCAN and CHOICE have urged the Federal Government to adopt the recommendations of its Inquiry into IT Pricing to help improve the accessibility of ICT to Australian businesses, educators, and those on low incomes or with a disability.

In a statement to ZDNet, ACS spokesperson, Thomas Shanahan, said adopting the report’s recommendations would help boost the productivity of the country's businesses, ICT professionals and research sectors.

"Australian ICT professionals should not be hindered in their access to technology simply based on where they live,"Shanahan, said.

"We have produced some of the greatest ICT minds in history, and we are confident that Australia will continue to develop, retain and nurture great digital minds through the future."

Shanahan said that, additionally, the report recognised that digital literacy was a key issue in education and society.

"Whatever can be done to help improve digital education and penetration should be embraced by all players in the digital economy," he said. "When access to technology is improved, everyone benefits."

In its response to the report, the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) said it urged both sides of federal politics to commit to the report’s recommendation that a whole-of-government accessible IT procurement policy be established.

In the consumer advocacy group's view, the policy would help drive down the high prices paid by people with disability for IT products. Greater access to IT products would also significantly increase the employment opportunities for people with disability.

"As one of the largest buyers of ICT, the government has the purchasing power to stimulate the market to give us a greater choice of accessible products and services," ACCAN’s disability policy advisor, Wayne Hawkins, said in a statement.

"If, as part of the tender process, governments explicitly say they wanted to buy ICT that is accessible for people with disability, companies will try harder to include those features when designing and developing new products."

In addition to welcoming the report's findings, consumer advocacy group CHOICE added that its own analysis of pricing for software, games and downloaded music showed Australians typically payed about 50% more for identical goods when compared to US consumers.

"Our research shows Australians cop a raw deal on digital prices, and today’s report provides a much-needed trigger for government action to terminate the so-called 'Australia tax'," CHOICE director of campaigns and communications, Matt Levey, said in a statement.

"In particular, we congratulate the committee for taking aim at the practice of 'geo-blocking', the virtual walls put in place by global copyright owners and manufacturers to artificially carve up markets and sustain higher prices in regions like Australia."

Commenting on geo-blocking, ACS's Shanahan said that the report provided an opportunity for vendors to re-examine the way they did business.

"The ACS has stated previously that geo-blocking is being widely circumvented, and as a result businesses need to work with certified, skilled professionals to develop systems and business models that better reflect the reality of a globalised ICT marketplace," he said.

"The development of new policies and systems by these companies will provide a more stable platform for ongoing digital development and continued operation."

The Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) was not available for comment on the report.

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