As of Friday, when ARN went to press, the NSW state election was undecided. Yet as far as IT policies go the result is moot with both the ALP and the Coalition releasing similar broad-based plans. They include obvious statements about intentions to launch NSW into the global information economy, improve education institutions' IT infrastructure and training curricula, and address the unique access problems of regional Australia.
Both parties hope to encourage the uptake of technology and competition through procurement and internal development, such as the ALP's "buy not build" policy. To this end, existing networks will be used as opposed to the creation of privately owned and managed government networks. Both policies focus heavily on networking solutions for educational institutions and e-commerce opportunities, with the Coalition promising to develop a state-wide broad band network and go completely online by 2001.
Michael Hedley, Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) corporate relations manager, is hoping that regional resellers and IT organisations will experience significant growth as a consequence of improved telecommunications and an increase in Internet usage and the number of regional ISPs.
The AIIA believes that network specialists will likely secure a number of preferred supp- lier contracts with the State Government as a con-sequence of the Government's outsourcing and partnering policies.
David Colvin, Software Spectrum managing director Asia-Pacific, is anticipating that the electoral promises of both parties will be beneficial to the IT industry only if "the two parties are willing to back them up financially". Colvin is confident that the Government has a place in the IT industry mainly in the education sector.
"Government policies can improve the awareness school kids have of technology as well as increasing their skill set. Improving technology in schools and universities will also make them more efficient. Basically, Government policy has the ability to impact on the IT skills shortage," Colvin said.
He is sceptical of party policy outside of the educational arena, though he does think that both parties have the ability to "enhance the prospects and opportunities of small businesses". Colvin also "doubts whether government will change the pace or focus of the technology the industry is taking up".
Sandy Peters, managing director of Sydney reseller ATC Compact, agrees that the general vision both parties have for the IT industry will not "drive the industry - that will be more internally forced.
"The Government will only get really concerned about how to tax purchases on the Internet," he said.
Peters argues that it is the actual contracts the Government awards that will have the greatest impact on the IT industry, though the effects will be detrimental to smaller companies.
"The way the Government does business, such as outsourcing, has a severe effect on businesses because they judge who will win a tender on recognisable brands, rather than complete applications, to the extent that I have seen companies go out of business because of it," Peters claimed.
Peters also concedes that the two policies, which he believes are almost identical, will stimulate a certain level of activity in the IT industry through sheer volume.
"The more hardware out there the more potential for me to pick up some of the business."
ALP IT policy
Stimulate growth in the IT industry with a focus on e-commerce, multimedia applications and software development.
Provide $12 million to establish the Australian High Performance Computing Centre. This centre will provide a technological infrastructure to businesses, allow SMEs to design and test new products and offer research and development facilities to universities.
Develop an e-commerce awareness program focused on small and regional businesses. Introduce legislation to enforce electronic transactions.
Further develop the Computers in Schools program by distributing 25,000 computers and replacing 90,000 older computers over four years. Ensure that all schools have a local network infrastructure.
Address the IT skill shortage through partnerships with IT industry businesses in the areas of network communications, Internet content development and software and database programming.
Ensure Government and community preparedness for the millennium bug.
Expand the Country Online program to include 500 schools and extend the NSW.net project to include all libraries in NSW.
Buy existing data communications services from service providers rather than build own private networks.
Expand Government online services to include areas such as vehicle registration and business licensing.
Ensure the Government is Y2K compliant and encourage the wider community to counteract the millennium bug.
Coalition IT policy
Develop an information skilled society by providing educational facilities and the technical infrastructure.
Network all schools and TAFE college classrooms. Establish a pilot program to give teachers laptop computers. Provide Internet and e-commerce community-based training.
Establish a Learning Network to coordinate education and training organisations.
Create a Foresight Panel comprised of IT, Government and scientific experts to identify market trends.
Financially support the Australian Technology Park and create a biotechnology cluster to encourage research and development.
Develop an E-Government plan to deliver all Government services online by 2001. Provide assistance to SMEs through Business Enterprise Centres to encourage them to use e-commerce.
Provide private access to a statewide broadband network to promote equitable access to technology throughout Australia.
Present a Y2K status report on Government departments and utilities including power, water, police and hospitals.