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Consultation failure made for criticism

SPIRIT might be a popular program with the local ICT industry, but another associated initiative – WA-MAID (Western Australian Major Alliances for Industry Development) – has attracted almost unanimous criticism.

WA-MAID requires any company with aggregated ICT sales – not profit – to government agencies of at least $5 million in a three-year period to invest in general industry development activities.

When companies join the SPIRIT program, by default they agree to participate in WA-MAID.

The companies must do this on a dollar-for-dollar basis – for each revenue dollar earned, a dollar must be spent on development.

The criticism of this proposal is threefold: the program is unworkable; it was introduced without industry consultation; and although it is still just a draft program, it has applied since July 1.

Chairman of the Australian Information Industry Association in WA Phil Foxwell questioned the necessity for WA-MAID.

“We wish to have the initiative suspended pending consultation between government and industry to resolve a workable outcome,” Mr Foxwell said.

He did not wish to offer additional comments until the AIIA had consulted the Government about the issue, however.

Others have been less reserved in their assessment of WA-MAID, with one executive likening the program to the failed Pinnacle Blue supercomputer project – “It’s a dead duck before it started,” he said.

Some of the larger multinational companies in Perth have approached the Government to express their concerns, but smaller local companies, too, fear what WA-MAID will mean for them. One local company director described it as totally flawed.

“There’s been no industry consultation whatsoever but [DoIT has] issued a very detailed, proscriptive document that is just totally impractical and unworkable for industry but that is totally linked to SPIRIT,” the director said. “The way it’s written at the moment, local home-grown companies just couldn’t comply, which means they wouldn’t be able to compete for work under SPIRIT, which means they’d go out of business.”

IBC managing director Richard Keeves said that, ultimately, arrangements made with government had to be fair for all parties concerned, but in the spirit of fairness WA-MAID “didn’t cut the mustard”.

But there is at least one dissenting voice, that of Software Engineering Australia (WA) CEO Stuart Hope.

"I believe WA-MAID will overcome the problems with past similar Federal programs that did not benefit the WA industry. After some tuning WA-MAID should ensure that there is a focus on expanding and developing our WA ICT industry in terms of R&D, product development and export for the benefit of all," Mr Hope said.

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