The 2012 Federal Budget has been expectedly conservative with investments to IT, but the Government has poured money into driving productivity gains through services that would be delivered through the National Broadband Network (NBN).
A number of projects have been labelled under digital productivity in the Budget and while each has received a considerably small portion of funding, together they add up to a significant amount. Many of them require high-speed broadband to come to fruition.
Digital productivity projects include $4.9 million over four years to “leveraging the NBN infrastructure to enhance service delivery through video conferencing” for the Department of Human services, $2.4 million over two years to put museums online for public access, $4.9 million over four years for video conferencing and online services to support remote vision and hearing impaired children, as well as expansion of the telehealth service trial - $22 million over three years.
“There are a whole series of projects related to the NBN,” Ovum public sector technology research director, Kevin Noonan, told ARN. “Each isn’t that big individually but there are a fair few of them and that’s a significant amount of money being put into productivity using broadband.”
Government agencies have been under pressure to find cost savings after last year's increase to the efficiency dividend. Agencies are required to make $500 million in savings.
Cutting the cost of IT is not a sustainable solution as IT itself is a small part of departmental budgets, Noonan said.
“Agencies are really looking at IT as a way of improving productivity within the department,” he said. “We are starting to see some examples of that now starting to come through as evidence in the budget.”
The Government has been promoting digital productivity gains, particularly through the NBN, for sometime.
Last week, Communications Minister, Senator Stephen Conroy, along with the AIIA, launched a KPMG report which claims Cloud computing has the potential to contribute $3.25 billion to the Australian economy.
“Fast and reliable connections need to go beyond the CBD, business parks, and other capital cities,” Senator Conroy said at the report’s launch event in Sydney. “For the full potential of the Cloud to be realised by the two million or so businesses in Australia, we need broadband infrastructure that is ubiquitous and affordable. That is what the National Broadband Network (NBN) does - The NBN positions Australia perfectly.”
Tim Reed, CEO of business software vendor, MYOB, agreed improved broadband will create opportunities for the IT sector. He was heartened that the Government has invested in the NBN and IT to drive internal productivity.
"Every Government should always constantly be looking at how to improve productivity using technology," Reed said. "It's good to see the Government's willingness to invest in projects such as the NBN which will drive productivity through the rest of the economy as well - that's a real benefit for the IT industry as well."
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