ARN: What is the underlying philosophy of the Information Economy 2002 strategy?Dr Michael Armitage, SA Minister for the Information Economy: The whole purpose of Information Economy 2002 is to present to South Australians a cohesive picture of the sorts of issues which a government and a state need to undertake to make sure they are key players in the information economy.
The Information Economy 2002 project consists of a series of collaborative initiatives which involve the participation of government, different industries, community groups and educational representatives.
These are not just 21 things that we have run up a flag pole. We have thought long and hard about presenting a global picture of what South Australia should be like as we move into what is becoming known as the "Information Age".
One of the original premises was to make sure that the private sector became fully IT literate and aware of the benefits to be gained from using emerging technologies to solve their problems. Part of the rationale behind this move was the concern that if they didn't start becoming more involved with IT-based solutions, they were in danger of getting their lunch eaten by overseas competition.
How did you identify the goals of Information Economy 2002?Our original goal was to make sure business, government and the citizenry in general were using the information economy. We wanted to make sure that their business and their education and their interaction with government was as sharp and as seamless as it could be. It became clear that the best way to achieve this goal was through extensive networking. We needed to provide the people of South Australia with the IT infrastructure to use the Internet and e-mail, and the know-how to actually use it.
Over the next little while, we are looking at getting one and a half million people networked with each other, with business, with government and so on.
What kinds of programs does Information Economy 2002 consist of?The initiatives are all very different. One is called SA Connect, which aims to give every South Australian an e-mail address and a personalisable Web page. Through SA Connect, the Government wanted to integrate the citizens of South Australia into the information economy as seamlessly as possible. It is like encouraging people to use a postal service by providing them with free post boxes.
The next question was how to include the people who were not IT literate, so we brought out the Network for You program, which is a free program of Internet awareness and education.
With the Network for You program we are utilising present infrastructure, we use libraries, schools, councils, local development boards and so on.
Each element of Information Economy 2002 builds on the last to provide a cohesive package.
It is very much our view that once we break down the barriers and people realise that the Internet is not in any way scary, they will get involved in e-mail, sending digital photographs, finding out information over the Web, and maybe even a little bit of e-commerce.
Ultimately, we believe even people that were wary of IT will be encouraged to go out and buy their own computers. For those that really can't afford it, we are making sure there is free public access in lots of places.
How has the IT industry in South Australia been involved?Several key people in the industry are involved in my Information Economy Advisory Committee. They were very influential in indicating the directions the Information Economy 2002 policy should take and in working towards the initiatives.
One of the initiatives is the development of Industry Action Plans, which are designed to encourage the development of the information economy for a series of different industry segments.
The SA IT Council is hot to trot in working up these action plans for the IT industry, but we have also approached other industries to encourage them to take an active role in the information age, and a number are working up their strategies.
South Australia is becoming a very attractive location for key players in the IT world because of the increasing use and understanding of the technology.
Has Information Economy 2002 led to an increase in investment in South Australia?The State Government is leading the way in terms of investment in IT infrastructure. We currently have a request for proposal in relations to telecommunications infrastructure, and we have the SA Connect tender out as well.
Information Economy 2002 has certainly sparked the interest of a number of major US companies.
The Microsoft Innovations Centre is an example of how Information Economy 2002 has paved the way for private sector investment in the State. It is a project that was only ever established because we have been recognised as a Government that sees the importance of digital innovations. They are prepared to put a lot of time, energy and expertise into our willingness to align with them through the innovation centre. The centre is designed to develop and trial software for the Government that has the potential to be exported throughout the world.
This is just a taste of things to come. At the World Economic Forum a few months ago, representatives of three or four major IT companies were seeking me out to discuss the potential South Australia has to offer.
Have you seen any tangible results from the Information Economy 2002 strategy?There is a real enthusiasm and an acknowledgement by the community that we have grasped the future.
We are working towards rolling one or two initiatives out every month this year and the early part of next year, leading up to the World Congress on IT which will be held towards the end of February 2002. Our goal has always been to have as technologically alert a society as possible.
21 Initiatives for the 21st Century
The South Australian Government's Information Economy 2002 program consists of 21 initiatives designed to be implemented in time for the World Congress on IT to be held in Adeliade in 2002. The Government describes the backbone of the 2002 strategy as "a carefully selected, mutually supportive cluster of activities - a network of strategies".
The initiatives comprise the following: business incubator careers information exchange e-business campaign everything online: public information resources global education for global business global utilities/global services information economy scorecard industry action plans information economy literacy intellectual property for a new economy international advisory panel logistics alliance Microsoft Government Software Innovation Centre NetWorks for You 2002 online/offline privacy and protection SA Connect Service SA Smart State volunteers South Australia as a global brand telecommunications infrastructure virtual electorate.