A joint ICT initiative between the federal and Tasmanian state governments, the Intelligent Island program, has not failed according to Greg Johannes, Secretary for Tasmania's Department of Economic Development, despite criticism from the Opposition over the program's funding.
Johannes -- whose department administers the program -- told ZDNet Australia that all of the funding from the Intelligent Island venture will have been committed to industry partnerships or the state's ICT research centre by the end of February, after the program was launched in 2000 with an initial AU$40 million budget.
"[The latest phase] of Intelligent Island has seen two major initiatives: an ICT research facility funded in cooperation with the CSIRO, and a partnership with industry to bring innovative products to market, called MAP [Market Access Program]."
The Tasmanian ICT Centre was established in September 2006 off the back of a joint AU$30 million investment between the CSIRO and the federal government, via AU$15 million of funding from Intelligent Island.
Another AU$18 million of the program's AU$40 million budget has been allocated to MAP. "Of that AU$18 million, we've already funded AU$13 million worth of grants to companies to take their products to market," he said.
Johannes' remarks come after Tasmanian Opposition leader, Will Hodgman, told The Australian today: "It is a shocking waste of opportunity that seven years since the program was launched, well over two-thirds of the funds available for the Tasmanian ICT industry still sit idle in a bank account."
Peter Gartlan, president of Tasmanian industry body TasIT, said that he had been happy with the outcomes of Intelligent Island but agreed with the state's Opposition Leader that the amount of time it has taken for some of the initiatives to be put in place had been unacceptable.
"MAP has been a very successful undertaking, but it should have been in place a few years ago," said Gartlan.
"AU$40 million is a lot of money for Tasmania, and I think there was a significant amount of to-ing and fro-ing for the funds to get to industry."
The Tasmanian Department of Economics' Johannes said that the state Opposition leader's logic was flawed in saying that all of the funding should have been spent by now.
"We wanted to make sure we invested into long term growth, and the best thing you could do for that is to spend as the opportunities arise, rather than for the sake of it," he said.
The federal government's role in the program had been administered by the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts (DCITA).
According to a spokesperson from DCITA's Labor successor, the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, "responsibility for the Intelligent Island Program is being transferred to the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research".