Editorial: ICT industry’s economic responsibility

Leading the way to a smarter planet

Recognition of ICT as a business enabler is slowly but surely filtering its way into the corporate psyche. But many in our industry feel the wider public, and our politicians, are still missing the opportunity to position ICT as core to the well-being of the global economy.

Over the past week, several have advocated ICT as one of the best ways to get through the tougher economic circumstances our country is facing.

IBM is one of many vendors tooting ICT’s horn, and held a forum last week with key industry publications, including ARN, to discuss the importance of technology for driving Australia’s longterm future. Its initiative, dubbed Smart Planet, is about incorporating smarts to key utilities and systems such as healthcare, cities and communications. Smart Planet aims at improving collaboration and bringing a new level of intelligence to how the world works.

In his speech, IBM managing director, Glen Boreham, pointed out the Federal Government’s latest economic stimulus package focused on fi xing physical and traditional infrastructure, but it neglected Australia’s digital infrastructure. He claimed global human and institutional systems were “unaware” and used the worldwide financial crisis as the telling example.

I had a similar conversation last week with Dr Paul Campbell, the executive offi er of the ICT Industry Working Group. The Queensland-based troop represents the interest of several ICT bodies including the Australian Information Industry Association and Australian Computer Society. The group is aggressively lobbying the Queensland Government to recognise the importance of investing in ICT innovation as well as ICT-related jobs in the broader economic environment.

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At a recent industry debate between Queensland premier, Anna Bligh, and opposition leader, Lawrence Springborg, the group got 100 IT representatives to come along, dressed in provocative t-shirts saying “I choose ICT for 30,000 new Queensland jobs”. I can only imagine the impact that had on the 500 other attendees.

Campbell’s argument was governments should be spending some of the billions outlaid to stimulate the economy on creating new “smart” jobs and industries in readiness for the challenges of the future. Rather than saving the car manufacturing industry for example, Campbell said the spotlight should shine on ICT innovation.

These are big, wide-reaching ideas, and will take time to develop. But it’s fantastic to see so many talking about the value of ICT.

At ARN, we believe the IT channel is an intrinsic and critical part of this debate. As the repercussions of the economic downturn wheedle their way into each corporation and small business, channel partners will be instrumental in driving these changes and improving productivity for their customers.

To highlight some of the ways channel organisations are already adjusting to this new level of responsibility, we looked at what several integrators and vendors are doing to buck the recession (see page 1). All agreed combating business and productivity issues through services and technology solutions was the best way to secure customers today and for the future.