The 2013 Federal Budget lacks an overarching strategy for IT and the digital economy, with few of the many projects flagged likely to significantly benefit the sector, according to the IT industry.
“There doesn’t seem to be any overarching storyline or holistic approach or strategy to stimulate the development of this globally competitive digital economy that we’ve been talking about,” Australian Information Industry Association chief Suzanne Campbell told iTnews.
Earlier this month the AIIA set out its election platform, making six recommendations to the government which it said would help boost competitiveness, productivity and innovation.
Campbell said while she wouldn't call it “dumb”, a word used by Greens leader Christine Milne today, there was no framework in the budget to support the IT sector in creating “a different kind of Australia”.
While the Government has set aside $12.9 million to connect more local councils to the NBN and provide small business training, Campbell said much of the money was for “showcasing”.
“Showcasing is good, actually embracing the technology in a comprehensive way and using it to drive government programs would be better,” she said.
“While there are a number of small and worthy projects in the budget it's very difficult to see how they’re connected to creating that larger outcome.”
Campbell described the government’s plan to push ahead with restricting the R&D tax incentive to companies with less than $20 billion in turnover as "disappointing".
The measure is expected to deliver the Government $1.1 billion over the forward estimates period.
Campbell said the AIIA was talking to both sides of politics about the need to ensure Australia remained competitive on R&D.
The Government wants Australia to have an innovation system in the global top 10 by 2025. The budget papers showed 9750 entities registered for the R&D tax incentive last financial year, with the cost of the R&D claims blowing out by $135 million when compared with estimates.
“It’s absolutely imperative that we make Australia a place where R&D is embraced and pursued and applied," Campbell said.
“This is a globally competitive position that we find ourselves in, the best and brightest can go anywhere in the world … we want people to stay in Australia to do R&D and right now we don’t have an environment that’s conducive to that."
Lead technology partner of advisory firm Grant Thornton Simon Coulton said the budget announcements made by the Government did not support the investment in IT that is required to drive Australian productivity and competitiveness.
“There were no announcements that are likely to significantly benefit the ICT sector. Funding announced in the Treasurer’s speech such as to connect local councils to ubiquitous high speed broadband and training regional businesses and communities in early rollout sites is not a new initiative,” he said.
“Nor is the funding of innovation precincts a new commitment, and in any case is not focused primarily on encouraging innovation related to the development of Australia’s digital economy."
Coulton said the Government’s mentality seemed to be “build [the NBN] and [the economic benefits] will come”.
“The Government needs to do more to educate the broader public and business community about both the social and economic benefits of a truly digital economy and must encourage private sector investment in related technology.
"The digital economy and the NBN is not just about connecting rural Australia and providing households with better internet speeds.”