Professional association for Australia’s ICT sector, the ACS, has released its Federal Election Manifesto, identifying five key policy areas that must be addressed if Australia is to secure its economic future in the information age.
The five priority areas are digital skills and digital literacy, diversity, cyber security, the nbn, and having a policy framework.
The manifesto is being released ahead of the National Press Club Innovation Debate between minister for industry, innovation and science, Christopher Pyne, and shadow minister for higher education, research, innovation and industry, Kim Carr.
ACS president, Anthony Wong, highlighted the critical need for political leaders to focus on policies and programs which address the twin challenges of digital disruption and an economy in transition.
“The information age is driving a depth and pace of change which is unprecedented in human history,” he said.
“Added to this is an Australian economy transitioning from one based less on our natural resources strength to one built increasingly around successful services and knowledge‑based industries.
“Now more than ever, we need our leaders to focus on the issues which will be pivotal to ensuring Australia captures the opportunities of the information age, whilst at the same time ensuring our people do not get left behind.”
According to Wong, Australia needs political leaders to acknowledge these key economic issues and bring fresh, innovative and bold new thinking to address challenges.
“The ACS Federal Election Manifesto identifies the areas we believe must be prioritised by our political parties. We are at a potential tipping point as we pursue our aspirations for current and future generations of Australians.
“We need our political leaders to [bring] decisive action across a number of policy areas,” Wong said.
Some of ACS’ recommendations include:
1. Digital skills and digital literacy – Changes to our education system, particularly in schools and universities, and in approaches to workforce planning and training.
Wong said our students need to learn new skill sets and teachers and the pedagogy need to support that learning. He added that universities and employers need to work more collaboratively to better match job opportunities with graduate competencies; and that we have workforce planning models which provide real-time information on job markets and education pathways. We also need a stronger focus on increasing SME digital capability.
2. Diversity – Wong said we are significantly underutilising our human capital at a time when we have critical shortages in specialist ICT skills. Wong highlighted the importance of the development of national workforce strategies, which facilitate better collaboration across multiple stakeholders to boost labour force participation rates for women and mature age workers.
To help close the gap between male and female employment rates in ICT, the ACS also recommends implementing a campaign to educate and inspire young female students about the exciting opportunities available through a career as an ICT professional.
3. Cyber security – According to Wong, as Australia’s digital economy grows, increasing the pool of skilled cyber security professionals will be key to transforming capabilities in this space.
He said we need to raise the awareness amongst Australians of the potential risks of the Internet, such as identity fraud, and educating them on how they might protect themselves online. The ACS recommends the incoming Government work closely with relevant stakeholders to expedite the implementation of the Commonwealth’s ‘Cyber Security Strategy’.
As a high priority, the ACS also recommends addressing the shortage of cyber security professionals through a series of targeted actions at all levels of the education system, including establishing centres of cyber security excellence in universities.
4. nbn – The ACS suggests that the nbn ready-for-service (RFS) target for 2018 be revised from 9.1 million to 10 million, and the activations target be revised from 4.4 million to 5 million. ACS also advocates a higher priority be placed on connecting SMEs and education institutions, both of which have a critical role to play in the information age, and that the nbn engage more with local industry as part of its technology supply chain so a competitive telecommunications industry can develop and its network can provide service offerings.
5. Policy framework – Wong said it is critical that the incoming government adopt a new philosophical approach to policy development in the information age.
“The pace and size of change driven by digital technology is taking governments into unchartered waters and presenting policy challenges for which history is no guide. A new, innovative approach to the policy development process is needed.”
The ACS said a new approach should involve a greater input from organisations at the forefront of the information economy. The ACS advocates the establishment of an independent policy advisory organisation, housed and resourced outside of government, with membership drawn from employers, the education and training sector, not-for-profits and professional bodies. Government employees should also be seconded for long-term placements as a way of bridging the gap between private and public sector experience of the information age.