Several industry representatives have criticized the Federal Government's latest Budget for lacking ICT initiatives, claiming the absence of broadband development in particular will hinder Australia's economic prospects.
However, one player argued the overall spending boost could open up opportunities for technology providers. Pacific Internet managing director, Dennis Muscat, expressed disappointment at the lack of funding or discussion about next-generation networking.
"Over the last 5-6 years, the government's view has been that the industry should sort its own issues out," he said. "But in parts of the world such as Europe and Asia, they're rolling out very large fibre optic and wireless networks with tremendous support from government.
"The government funds big infrastructure projects like dams, bridges, and roads. High-speed networks should also fall into this category in 2007."
Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) CEO, Sheryle Moon, also singled out broadband infrastructure funding as a major obstacle to economic growth.
"The government could be relying on the fact that it's made some promises around broadband in the past. But the industry gets very nervous when things go off the agenda. Given this is such an important component, it's disappointing it's not there being discussed in the Budget," she said.
"Australia needs high-speed, accessible and affordable broadband infrastructure. It's important in ensuring future productivity.
"It's [the Budget] a bit disappointing given the knowledge economy is the rhetoric used for everything related to growing prosperity in Australia. We would have liked to have seen more acknowledgement of IT underpinning all industry productivity." Data#3 CEO, John Grant, agreed connectivity was the key piece of the jigsaw puzzle securing long-term economic growth.
"The government doesn't see ICT as a vote winner, so it's not received any emphasis in the Budget," he said.
"Infrastructure and getting this country enabled is the most critical thing.
"In that respect, I think Labor's position on the need for a national broadband network is more visionary than the government's."
The Federal Government currently funds several broadband-related projects, such as Connect Australia (building infrastructure in rural and remote areas); the $878 million Broadband Connect fund; and the Clever Networks initiative ($113.4 million for networks for new applications to improve the delivery of health, education and other essential services).
While supportive of these initiatives, Pacific's Muscat said they were simply "putting out spot fires".