Budget 08: IT industry has mixed response to Federal Budget

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Budget 08: IT industry has mixed response to Federal Budget

The Federal Government’s promises of improving digital education, innovation and broadband connectivity has failed to completely satisfy the IT industry.

Announced this week, the Budget is based on a projected surplus of $21.7 billion in 2008-09, which builds on savings of $33 billion during a four year period.

While it welcomed the increased investment, the Australian Computer Society (ACS) has raised concerns that the Budget still lacks a well-defined ICT strategy.

“There are some significant wins for the technology sector within the budget and the ACS is a strong supporter of the Government’s investment in broadband,” ACS National President, Kumar Parakala said.

“However, the Government, as part of its current investment strategy, also needs to recognise the ICT sector as a major area of future growth, and a powerful industry that is a powerful economic sector in its own right.”

“The challenge for the ICT sector right now is more about focus than funding,” he said.

The Government has budgeted $1.2 billion over a five year period for delivering computers and communications technologies to students in Years 9 to 12.

An additional $11 billion has been pledged to a refresh of existing Higher Education infrastructure, targeting skills, TAFE colleges and universities.

While the ACS acknowledged the focus on postgraduate education, it highlighted a need to improve the ICT brand to attract secondary school students into undergraduate ICT courses.

The ACS also called for the development of specific policies to leverage the planned investment in broadband.

In accordance with the Federal Budget, broadband will be competing with roads, rail, and ports in a $20 billion Building Australia fund.

The Government plans to roll out a high speed, open access, fibre-based National Broadband Network that will deliver minimum speeds of 12 megabits per second to 98 percent of Australian homes and businesses.

An additional $271 million over four years has been pledged towards the Australian Broadband Guarantee to improve regional and rural connectivity.

“Australia must develop specific policies to leverage this massive infrastructure investment in broadband,” Parakala said. “This means focusing on the Digital Economy and what’s beyond the pipe - particularly in e-commerce, e-health and education areas.”

“To do this, we need a deliberate and focused strategy to give the Digital Economy priority, as many of our neighbours have done with enormous economic success,” he said.

The Government’s plans to invest a further $42 million over four years to establish a network of Enterprise Connect Centres to support Small to Medium Businesses (SMBs) was also met with support from the ACS.

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