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Budget 2012: ICT opportunities aplenty

Date

Lia Timson

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Treasurer Wayne Swan.

Treasurer Wayne Swan. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

The 2012 federal budget offers plenty of opportunities for the IT industry, for those who know where to look.

The ICT sector should receive an unexpected mini-boost from the budget announced by Treasurer Wayne Swan this week with up to $1 billion worth of projects peppered throughout the government's plans for the next four to seven years.

Among the biggest ticket items are $240.3 million over four years for systems to enable the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). According to budget documents, the system will "track and evaluate the operation of the first stage of the scheme and provide a platfrom for a national rollout".

An additional $233.7 million has been allocated to further the national e‑Health agenda, which is largely dependent on the rollout of the national broadband network (NBN), and the electronic patient record database – the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record (PCEHR) system - due to launch in July.  It comes on top of the $466.7 million investment which runs out in June.

In addition there are provisions for $467.1 million over seven years for SuperStream with $14.6 million in 2012-13, $58.7 million in total going to the Australian Taxation Office to improve superannuation payment processing, and for $68.5 million to add geo-coding to, and improve, company records on the Australian Business Register among others.

Kevin Noonan, research director with analyst firm Ovum, who attended the budget lockup for the first time this year, concluded there are plenty new opportunities to offset part of the ICT cuts announced in the November mini-budget.

Noonan said the Efficiency Dividend foreshadowed then to increase from 1.5 per cent to 4 per cent would still prevent federal government agencies from upgrading equipment and spending on current running costs, but the new budget allocations would go some way to provide them with funds for new projects that would in turn stimulate the ICT sector.

He said suppliers could sit behind the cuts and complain or go "follow the money" to realise nearly $1 billion worth of opportunities not previously foreshadowed.

"Broad estimates would put the size of IT project money at least equalling projects coming out of the 2011-12 Budget. That's a lot of money. Tax, health and welfare did particularly well, but there was a good smattering of money going to other agencies."

Nick Abrahams, partner with law firm Norton Rose, who advises government agencies and vendors on contracts, said the budget provided important opportunities through various projects but these were counter-balanced by the cuts, especially in Defence.

"The $5.6 billion general cut to Defence spending will have a noticeable impact on the IT industry, though the budget still includes $550 million for IT remediation activities across Defence," Abrahams said.

The Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) welcomed the budget, in particular the measures to support the e-records database.

In a statement AIIA chief executive Suzanne Campbell said the continued funding of e-Health initiatives would better utilise the skills and knowledge of Australia's ICT industry.

She said AIIA members looked forward to continuing working closely with the Department of Health to implement the scheme and improve the efficiency of Australia's health system.

Among other "digital spending" measures shared among various government agencies, are $7.9 million to expand the SmartGate system at international airports; $82.4 million for the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) to upgrade its ICT infrastructure and $11.7 million to extend the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) program to primary schools in rural and remote indigenous communities. It will afford more than 50,000 XO laptops along with associated training, development and support for teachers, children and their communities.

Rangan Srikhanta, CEO of OLPC Australia said: "In the digital age, we have a real opportunity to close the gap between advantaged and disadvantaged children in ways that were unimaginable less than 20 years ago. This funding will allow us to make significant progress toward the goal of achieving social equality in education for all Australian children."

Among the more intriguing initiatives is a $2.4 million provision for online remote access to national cultural institutions via virtual tours involving mobile robots. The allocation is made for the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy and the CSIRO and counts on the NBN rollout. It comes under the heading "putting museums online for public access" and promises to allow users "to engage and interact with local visitors and tour guides" and receive "additional on-screen information to enhance their experience".

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9 comments so far

  • He's got to be kidding.

    I bet most of these contracts go to big multi-nationals who will use off-shore labour at supposedly reduced cost. (and reduced quality)

    There's probably lots of money for the very few Australian's that are the front face for the tender process, but most of this money will disappear overseas along with the career hopes of hundreds of Australia's IT professionals.

    Commenter
    Oz
    Location
    Melbourne
    Date and time
    May 10, 2012, 3:58PM
    • Crikey, you would hope not, it may be worth getting those in your industry to arrange a submission or publicize your concerns. It would be egg on their face they could well do without. These contracts & the workers deserve to be Australian.

      Get organised, contact Conroy. They need all the positive publicity possible, so theoretically should listen.

      Commenter
      a country gal
      Date and time
      May 10, 2012, 7:30PM
  • Well it really depends "Wayne Swan". How many 487 visas will be issued and how the Vendors who win these contracts then (likely) outsource it. We will continue to train overseas IT people at the expense of our local IT professional

    Commenter
    Destina2
    Date and time
    May 10, 2012, 5:59PM
    • The governments and big business in Australia abandoned local IT people a long time ago - the power of cheap labour on a 457 visa, or send it offshore just means that they have a way to meet the dollars they want to hang on to. Australia is not a healthy place for IT at the moment and until these organisations invest in what in on their doorstep, instead of settling for cheap labour and cheap quality, this wont change

      Commenter
      Dr Roof
      Location
      London
      Date and time
      May 10, 2012, 8:02PM
      • The Question i am asking is " WHY DID LABOR WAIT FOR SUCH a PERIOD. The Labor Government was @ ITS LOWEST POINT EVER & ON THE BRINK OF EXTINCTION,these Handouts have only been put into place to secure the Governments position but i DO NOT BELIEVE there is a GENUINE thought behind this & i believe this is PURELY an ELECTION STUNT & NOTHING MOREl.....?

        Commenter
        AussieBurka
        Location
        TOWNSVILLE QLD
        Date and time
        May 10, 2012, 8:19PM
        • $300mill is the cost of the sticking plaster currently fixing up the botched QLD health payroll upgrade. With a record like that $1bn won't go far.

          Commenter
          Mr Pod
          Location
          Brisbane
          Date and time
          May 10, 2012, 8:20PM
          • Dear Wayne, Before you spend all this money on IT projects, Take a minute to find out who is running who's IT, then ask each of those companies, the exact number of employees working on that piece of IT, and how many in each country. Then tell us the Taxpayers how much is being spent in the Australian Comunity.

            Commenter
            PK@Werribee
            Date and time
            May 10, 2012, 9:54PM
            • maybe he means ....There will be many opportunties in IT industry for the federal labor front bench to work in after the next federal election.
              :-)

              Commenter
              Frederick
              Location
              Melbourne
              Date and time
              May 10, 2012, 10:52PM
              • Wake up Swanne..can't you remember you've outsourced half the IT jobs to India.
                the other half are occupied by consultants with temporary visas.

                Give us a fair go mate....
                have you forgotten what you stand for...
                your beginning to sound like Liberal

                Commenter
                Tell me lies tell sweet little lies
                Location
                melbourne
                Date and time
                May 10, 2012, 11:07PM

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