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Power to the IT industry: when anger works

Although the Victorian Government's sudden decision to let snubbed companies back onto its eServices panel raises some serious questions about the government's procurement processes, in the end it became a positive story in terms of industry-government interaction.
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Written by Suzanne Tindal, Contributor on

Although the Victorian Government's sudden decision to let snubbed companies back onto its eServices panel raises some serious questions about the government's procurement processes, in the end it became a positive story in terms of industry-government interaction.

To many governments, IT seems to be the ugly industry that they need but not really want a whole lot to do with. Is that because so few politicians seem to be able to have any empathy with IT workers, or just because they have been frightened about technology ever since they were little, and don't really want to face the big bad wolf? I don't know.

To illustrate, using the words of NSW Finance Minister Greg Pearce at the opening of the Australian Computer Society office opening earlier this month:

"I'm old enough to remember a room about this size at the law firm I started working in, which was occupied by computer hard drive things, raised ceilings and floors," he said. "I guess I've been lucky enough to be around for the whole computer age, so if I can make a bit of a contribution to the development of Sydney and New South Wales in that space, then I want to do so."

Although Pearce was professing a desire to do good for the IT industry, he certainly didn't really have a grasp on the lingo.

He also said that he wouldn't normally come to an office opening at all, but he had decided to do so because it would be his "first plaque" unveiling. Thanks, Mr Pearce. We feel special.

There was also Premier Anna Bligh's infamous speech at the Queensland Australian Information Industry Association lunch last year, which had the industry asking why they bothered turning up.

"Despite being granted an incredible opportunity to win over an industry which involves approximately 70,000 employees, 6000 employers and generates over $29 billion per annum in revenues, the premier chose to spend more than 10 minutes of her address extolling the virtues of the Queensland games sector, which employs less than 1000 staff and is at best a boutique sector," Software Queensland chair John Vickers said in a statement at the time.

"Anna always impresses with her delivery and verbal dexterity, but when you have a bland and virtually content-free speech, this was nothing other than an opportunity squandered."

Now Victorian Shadow IT Minister Adem Somyurek might be right — Rich-Phillips may have little idea of how the IT industry functions. But I'd say that he'd probably only have as little idea as your average pollie. After all, it was he, as former shadow finance minister, who was on IT shared services provider CenITex's case back in 2009 about CIO and COO wages.

And although there's no question that the Victorian Government really stuffed up when it appointed its much smaller ICT panel, to the government's credit, at least it stopped ignoring the industry when it banded together and voiced a collective, "what the ****?!"

So I would take away from this saga the fact that if IT is willing to raise a fuss and speak up for itself, the government is more likely to do what the industry wants. So no shrinking violets now. Let's keep the channel open.

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