Editorial: ICT policies a year on

Editorial: ICT policies a year on

Federal Government ICT agenda cops criticism and comment

It’s just over a year since Kevin Rudd and the Labor Party waltzed into the Australian history books by squashing the Howard Government in a landslide victory.

There’s been plenty of commentary in the mainstream press about Kevin 07’s success in implementing his many ambitious and wide-reaching election promises, such as the abolition of WorkChoices, a new national and international policy on climate change, and apologising to the Stolen Generations.

The government has also had to do some quick thinking around the global economic downturn to ensure Australia doesn’t follow the US into a recession. The $10.4 billion bail-out package, which was proposed in October to hit before Christmas, is aimed at plumping up pockets and stimulating individuals to keep spending.

The reports ARN has received on the state of the market from the IT business community are mixed; on the one hand, we’re hearing of slowing sales and companies struggling to keep above water. One distributor told me its insurance claims as a result of resellers shutting up shop have already exceeded $500,000 this financial year. The distributor is predicting this could get to $1 million by June 30. On the other hand, plenty of organisations are still hiring new staff and claiming strong balance sheets.

But going back to Mr 07: While several promises have met with a tick of approval, there’s plenty that have met with controversy, too.

One area of “innovation” definitely causing a stir is ICT. In this week’s ARN, there are three tales based on significant ICT changes which, depending on your point of view, could effect the way you run your business, connect and interact online, or sell to government in future.

Last week, the tender process for the $4.7 billion National Broadband Network closed with a late and less-than-satisfactory letter from telco giant, Telstra, asking for assurances against structural separation. Whoever wins the right to build the NBN, it’s clear the criticisms being expressed so far are just the tip of the iceberg.

Even more controversial than the NBN technology platform or even some of Australia’s leading sports stars is Senator Stephen Conroy’s mandatory ISP-level Internet filtering plans (page 16) – better known as the Great Firewall of Australia. With so many people dead against the proposal and questioning its economic and technical feasibility, it’s a wonder the plan is still on the table.

Another decision which could significantly impact ICT suppliers is the government’s decision to implement the Gershon report recommendations in full. While most of the people we spoke to were impressed with the rapid response to the report, and applauded some of its suggestions, there are concerns the Government will miss the governance and capabilities argument and just cut costs. I think Senator Tanner’s willingness to change things is a good sign and also shows the importance of ICT in government – so here’s hoping things will turn out for the better.

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