Australian tech entrepreneurs are succeeding in spite of legislation and policies from the federal government, according to Superloop chief executive Daniel Abrahams.
In a stinging critique of the state of technology innovation in Australia, delivered at a Commsday summit in Sydney yesterday, Abrahams said Australia is increasingly falling behind regional ICT hubs such as Singapore.
He joins a number of prominent business leaders and public figures, including chief scientist Ian Chubb, who have called for increased support for Australian innovation.
"The entrepreneurs in Australia are some of the most innovative, because they execute in spite of government policy, in spite of having no support," Abrahams said.
While Abrahams acknowledged that Prime Minister Tony Abbott had attended a recent River City Labs start-up incubabtor event, he said tech innovation was still not a key policy focus for Australian governments.
"We can do so much more by way of tax breaks, in making sure our research institutions and educational institutions are properly funded, and that we provide support for our start-ups," he said.
"And if I look back at what I saw at River City Labs against versus I'm seeing in Singapore, they are worlds apart, and we're not taking the opportunity.
"I'm not just calling on just the government to take leadership, we [in the ICT industry] need to take leadership."
According to Abrahams, Australia should follow the example of Southeast Asian nations such as Singapore.
In 2013, South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, the Netherlands and United Kingdom took the top five spots in the GIobal Innovation Index information and communication technologies ratings. By contrast, Australia was ranked 13th in the same survey.
"Some of this may sound critical, but in terms of execution, I'm very inspired by what some South-East Asian countries are doing,” Abrahams said.
"Particularly in Singapore, they've stopped producing white papers, they're actually executing.
"We recently had the opportunity to take a group of 30 investors on a Singapore investor roadshow and their single comment was 'why aren't we doing this in Australia?' That's something we, in our community of responsibility, need to take to government."
Abrahams said that as well as emulating the example of nations such as Singapore, Australia also needed to engage more with the region in order to prosper economically.
"My sense in Singapore is it has really nation-building and very effective leadership, and that's something Australia can do better at," Abrahams said.
"The key message I want to convey is that entrepreneurs make a significant contribution to Australia's economy, and we need to keep supporting them as they progress and grow. And you'll see that contribution realised in the form of jobs and a contribution to GDP growth as well."