In yet another plea to the government, a day after it handed down its budget, the ACS says there’s still a need for a digital economy framework, which will support Australia’s core digital capabilities and strengths, as a blueprint for economic growth.
While the ACS says it’s pleased ICT issues have been given greater prominence in the budget, including greater acknowledgement of the link between ICT investment and economic prosperity, it maintains that bringing Australia’s digital economy to life will require both an “overall framework and specific plans built around core areas such as e-health, e-security and e-learning.”
ACS CEO Kim Denham says the government “ must develop appropriate policy, taxation, regulations and other support necessary for these areas to flourish. It’s disappointing that some of these segments which may hold the greatest opportunity for our economy appear to be largely unaddressed within this year’s Budget.”
According to Denham, greater acknowledgement by the government of the link between ICT investment and economic prosperity is particularly evident within the announcements in the innovation area, where, she says, “the initial investment of $4.7 billion in our National Broadband Network (NBN) provides a significant boost to our sector and is critically important to the Australian community.”
“However, beyond this basic infrastructure, Australia is sitting on a golden egg when it comes to our digital economy.
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Denham says the ACS welcomes the higher education initiatives announced yesterday in response to the Bradley Review, but she stresses that the government must address the need to attract more students into ICT and science disciplines.
While the ACS doesn’t think the government has gone far enough, by a long shot, on the issue of the digitial economy, it does, nevertheless, welcome the introduction of small business tax concessions for investment in new capital items, such as computer hardware.
Denham says, however, that the ACS would like to see consideration given to extending these incentives beyond 2009 with a “focus around Australian owned products and services including software and ICT services,” which would provide a means of “helping to power Australia’s economic recovery and boost employment for ICT professionals.”
Budget initiatives identified by the ACS as relevant to the Australian ICT sector, and positive news for the industry, include the $80 million rural and regional NBN initiative, small business tax breaks with incentives to invest in capital items such as computer hardware, the $10 million small business online program, new R&D tax credit, $185.5 million in funding for NICTA, and establishment of a $196.1 million Commonwealth Commercialisation Institute to develop a radical new approach to commercialising the best Australian research.
Overall, the budget, according to Denham, has delivered “some solid opportunities for the ICT sector – particularly in a challenging economic environment,” and, she says, the ACS “look forward to a continued conversation around ICT issues in the coming year as our economy builds towards a recovery.