The Federal government has launched a website it hopes will help Australian SMBs learn about and apply for government department and agency business online.
The AusTender website -- http://www.tenders.gov.au -- began as a pilot in October and had so far hosted some 30 tenders, a statement from the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts said.
Tender documentation would be available to download and tender responses might also be submitted via the site, which was also accessible from the Government's business entry point at http://www.bep.gov.au , it said.
Speaking at the Canberra launch on 10 December, Federal Minister for Communications, IT and the Arts Daryl Williams said AusTender was a 'mobile shop front' that could be customised to automatically notify subscribing suppliers of business opportunities in their area of interest.
'Government's aim is for AusTender to put small and medium enterprises on the same footing as companies with far greater resources when it comes to bidding for Government business,' Williams said. 'It can be used any hour of the day or night -- a real boon for small businesses with little time to chase new business leads.'
Further, tender responses made electronically might turn out cheaper than printing and binding hard copies, he said.
'AusTender offers benefits to everyone, from the largest of scientific research organisations, with a staff of several thousand, to the youngest ICT company with a staff of fewer than two dozen,' Williams said.
In a statement, Williams also said that an online system allowed increased time for bid development, since suppliers did not have to wait for documents to be posted. Government agencies were being progressively invited to use the system.
However, the Minister warned that AusTender would need the full commitment of Australian businesses and government agencies if it was to help anyone.
'As more Commonwealth agencies begin to use AusTender in the coming months, businesses should notice a real improvement in their capacity to access a fair share of Government business,' Williams said.
AusTender was partially funded by a government small business Assistance package and based on an e-tendering system used by NSW's Department of Commerce.
The National Office for the Information Economy (NOIE) had entered into an agreement with the NSW government for supply, installation and support of a Federal version of that state's system, Williams said.
Canberra's One Planet Solutions was one IT-focused SMB that had been involved in the AusTender pilot. Stephen Crowe, director at One Planet, said he thought the system looked 'pretty good' so far. It would speed up the tendering process for smaller companies.
'The real benefits will come once a lot of government departments are using it, because instead of searching lots of different sites to find the opportunities, we'll hopefully find a lot of them in one place,' he said.
Crowe said about 90 percent of One Planet's business came through the Federal Government. Most other websites did not provide a search facility that could set up automatic notification of opportunities by company interest. 'Some tender search facilities do ... but we often found the tenders ourselves before the services notified us,' Crowe said.