The Federal Government has appointed ex-EDS executive Don Easter to the newly created IT Supplier Advocate role.
From today, Easter would be responsible for liaison between government agencies and local SMBs to improve the latter's chances at winning government contracts.
The vacant position was announced last month as part of the Government's $8.2m Supplier Advocates program designed to promote Australian industry capabilities in a range of sectors.
In accordance with the part-time, one-year contract, Easter had a budget of $150,000, one full-time Government employee, and would work a total of 40 days at a pay rate of $1,100 per day.
Innovation Minister Kim Carr said Easter had strong understanding of the government IT procurement market and would "open doors for Australian businesses and help them become more visible to government customers and multinational IT firms in need of suppliers."
Until 2004, he was a senior regional executive at EDS, where he worked on contracts with the Australian Taxation Office, the Customs and Border Protection Service, and the South Australian State Government.
More recently, Easter has taken up directorships at companies such as Peoplebank and backup and recovery software vendor Attix5, and started a management consultancy called Kijuga.
He also runs a business consolidator called Bizsave, which negotiates deals with telecommunications and technology providers including engin, Trinity Telecom and web host Unlimited Space.
Easter told iTnews that he had declared potential interests to the Government and would be very clear and careful about any conflicts of interest in his new role.
As the IT Supplier Advocate, he hoped to tweak the public sector's structured procurement process and investigate how the industry could better position itself to win public sector work.
"There's quite a bit of talent in the Australian technology industry," he told iTnews. "The question is how do we leverage this talent for government work ... I see this as an intellectual challenge."
Easter said local SMBs tended to offer attractive pricing, but insufficiently scalable systems and capabilities to win government contracts.
He saw opportunities in subcontracting work from multinational corporations and large organisations that typically were more successful in the public sector.
"It's about aligning the various industry groups and communicating effectively," he said of his new role. "Hopefully I'll be able to help people align themselves to common goals."
Easter said he would consider open source software alongside proprietary technologies on its merits: "as long as it competes in an open space."
According to a statement from Carr's office, Easter was to collaborate with the Government's IT Industry Innovation Council (ITIIC) and contribute to industry-led initiatives such as NICTA's Australian eGovernment Technology Cluster and AIIA's CollabIT Program.
"With the Commonwealth Government being the single largest customer for IT in Australia, it is vital that we have access to the innovation capacity of nimble local SMEs - and equally that SMEs have access to government opportunities in order to build their capabilities and export credentials," Carr said.
"The Rudd Government wants a fairer go for Australian industry," he said. "We want to see more people buying Australian, both at home and abroad."