Labor commits to IT spending

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Labor has committed to spending $69.3 million over four years to give all Australians internet access for a range of business and government services, if the party wins the upcoming federal election.

Labor has committed to spending $69.3 million over four years to give all Australians internet access for a range of business and government services, if the party wins the upcoming federal election.

Senator Kate Lundy, shadow minister for information technology, launched Labor's ICT Industry Development and e-Australia Information policies in Brisbane today.

"ICT is a foundation of nation-building in the 21st century," Lundy said.

Under the proposed $69.3million e-Australia National Information Policy, AGIMO (the Australian Government Information Management Office) would be replaced by "Government IT and Online" (GITO).

The new agency would look at ICT issues from a whole-of-government perspective and strive to have "red tape removed" from accessing internet-based government services, a statement from Senator Lundy's office said.

The policy comprises a Citizens Online initiative, which would give people access to "greater democratic participation using the internet," according to the statement.

Under the ICT Industry Development policy, Lundy said Labor would work on reducing the ICT trade deficit, introduce a stronger, more enterprise-oriented Industry Department for ICT programs and policies, as well as reviewing the ICT government purchasing policy.

The new government purchasing policy would allow small companies to participate in government ICT tenders, encourage environmentally friendly products and would make the process more transparent, thus increasing efficiency and government accountability.

A 10-year strategy for software and digital content would also be created under a Labor government, Lundy said. This strategy would aim to increase the local software industry's global market share by focusing on open source development and partnering with SMEs.

Labor claimed that its proposed $2.34 billion "Aim Higher" tertiary education plan over the next four years would help universities to "make the most of ICT innovation in education," but the party has not yet released its R&D policy.

However, Lundy did commit Labor to keeping the Building IT Strengths (BITS) incubator program's funding at current levels, as well as continuing support for the National ICT Centre of Excellence.

Women in IT would also benefit under a federal Labor government. Lundy said, "we are concerned that only about 20 percent of people studying in ICT and related studies are women and that this percentage is decreasing."

Labor would front up $100,000 per year to "create opportunities for women undertaking tertiary study in ICT."

Labor will also increase small business grants from $2.5 million to $3 million, renaming the ITOL scheme "Small Business Online".

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