The IT industry is up in arms over the Labor Government’s plans to remove the promised $447.5 million pinned for ICT innovation spending.
The Gershon Review was introduced to help provide efficient and effective ICT expenditure and management. It aimed to save the Government $1 billion over a four year-period and $447.5 million was to be re-invested for ICT innovation.
After the Government re-diverts the funds, the remaining $557 million will be quarantined to fund government ICT projects as originally promised.
Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) chairman, John Grant, said the industry was angry about it.
“The industry assisted the process of implementation of the Gershon Review on the basis it is the right thing to do and that there would be the innovation funding, which has now been withdrawn,” Grant said. “The industry feels like they’ve been let down, they’re angry about it, have made a lot of sacrifices of individuals and are very concerned.”
Post-election Grant plans to have a discussion with the Government to re-visit the issue.
“It’s a confusing sign because all the signs that we’ve had from the Government was that they do get that technology can make a difference,” he said.
Grant highlighted the move also left CIOs of government agencies hung out to dry due to the lack of opportunity to invest those funds in innovative technology.
AIIA CEO, Ian Birks, said it wasn’t sustainable for the Government not to invest in improving service delivery through ICT.
“Ultimately, it’s going to have to be done and it’s going to have to be funded,” Birks said. “There’s not a lot we can do about it today and it’s a clearly a political move. Once the dust has settled on the election, we’ll re-engage about it. It’s not really an option to take it away.”
However, the Government’s SME IT advocate, Don Easter, said the tech industry did not have the right to feel betrayed and that the Government could spend as it saw fit as long as it matched the national interest.
“If they’re choosing to spend it on roads or the NBN, I think that’s entirely their prerogative,” he said. “If you’re working for any company in Australia and that company sets its strategic priorities outside IT investment then you’d have to fight for the dollars like everyone else – you’ve got to demonstrate the benefits.”
But Easter argued that the move may not have a major impact on IT funding because technology investments usually came with strong business cases. He also said SMEs could be a big winner as value for money becomes a top priority.
“I would say IT is a huge driver for productivity in a services sector like the Government,” he said. “Where are they going to get efficiencies and better delivery of services to the Australian taxpayer than through investment in IT?
“SMEs are niche specialists and they often have very good capabilities in certain specialised areas. Multinationals and agencies will have to look for value and this will make them think a lot harder about how they spend their money. Australian SMEs offer terrific value for money.”
The Gershon Review, which was publicly released in October 2008, slammed the Federal Government’s use and management of ICT as both ineffective and inefficient and blamed the lack of whole-of-government approach as a key sticking point.
The review was compiled by Sir Peter Gershon, a former adviser to the UK Government.