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Where to now for ICT?

commentary Bush and Howard again. It makes you wonder why we and our counterparts in the United States bothered with the elections of the past few weeks.
Written by Iain Ferguson, Contributor
commentary Bush and Howard again. It makes you wonder why we and our counterparts in the United States bothered with the elections of the past few weeks. (or whether a majority of voters in each country remembered what each administration actually did over the past few years, but your correspondent has been advised not to shove his political beliefs down the throats of his readers, so that is the last such comment he will make. Today.)

The high-pressure environment of the election campaigns did, however, throw into sharp relief some of the crucial issues affecting the information and communications technology sector. Here are some of your correspondent's observations:

  • Australia's new Information Technology and Communications Minister, Helen Coonan, has made an impressive start to her stint in the portfolio. One industry leader described her last week as a strong-willed, independent thinker, adding to a healthy body of positive feedback about the sector's new political overseer;

  • The Nationals are not going quietly along with the sale of the remainder of Telstra and debate may become more fractious between the coalition partners over telecommunications service standards in rural and regional Australia. It would hardly be surprising to see the telecommunications heavyweight announce a welter of new service initiatives targeting the bush over the next few months as its board and executive try to quieten public angst over the issue;

  • Concern among some sectors of the industry over the provisions of the Free Trade Agreement between Australia and the United States is rising sharply. Kim Weatherall, a director at the Intellectual Property Research Institute of Australia, articulated concerns over software patents in an interview yesterday with a ZDNet Australia  correspondent: "There is a lot of fear amongst the software developer community right now," she said. "The US has a lot of problems due to the number of patents, the shortness of review time to grant the patent and the litigious environment." While the Australian system doesn't have the same problems at every level, Weatherall said it "needs to be monitored" as "the FTA may lock us in to an inflexible system".

  • Corporate sensitivities associated with offshoring of information technology positions from the United States and Australia to lower-cost nations such as India and China are likely to ease now that the political environment for the next few years has been determined. Despite the heightened emotion generated by the issue, the obligation on corporate management to seek lowest-cost solutions -- provided minimum service standards are met -- virtually dictates that they at least evaluate the offerings of providers in those countries. Anyone who believes a form of patriotism or affection for a company's country of origin is an obstacle to the offshoring of positions is kidding themselves.

How do you think the information and communications technology sectors in Australia and the United States will fare under new Bush and Howard administrations?

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