ICT industry representative bodies have pointed to the standing of ICT in the Federal Government’s budget as a welcome first for the industry.
“There is no doubt about it, I think this is the first year we have seen technology issues receive a position of prominence in the budget agenda,” Australian Computer Society CEO, Kim Denham, said. “I think that is positive. Overall, ICT fared relatively well.”
Although many of the direct initiatives had been pre-announced – such as the $43 billion national broadband network (NBN) plan – Denham noted ICT underpinned a raft of other plans such as the $100 million investment in a new [artnid:302986|National Energy Efficiency Initiative|new]] that aims to transition the country to a low carbon economy with a smart grid, and the innovation agenda.
Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) CEO, Ian Birks, agreed, highlighting research and development tax credits, a $10 million commitment to help businesses get online, and Defence spending as nice surprises.
“There is a lot of stuff that was already in train, but there were some fine details that were unexpected,” Birks said. “Probably the biggest area of news that wasn’t expected is the detail of the innovation agenda, which is substantial I think.”
However, not all was rosy for ICT in the budget. Birks criticised the decision to not include intangibles – such as software – in the increase of the tax break to small businesses of 50 per cent.
Denham, also said the budget raised some questions, particularly on the government’s response to the Bradley review into higher education and the measures it will take to alleviate the skills shortage affecting the industry.
“I think it falls short with the recommendations,” she said. “It is still unclear. We are saying we are going to look for 50,000 students by 2013 but it still doesn’t actually go into any ways of how we are going to attract them into higher education in the ICT disciplines.
“How do we know we are getting students that are studying what they need to in 10 years time?”