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Labor needs IT gallop

Labor needs IT gallop

NOW that election hysteria has passed, it’s a good time to look at Labor’s promises on information technology and telecommuni-cations (IT&T), and assess how Dr Geoff Gallop’s charges are going to measure up in supporting Internet business in this State.

Dr Gallop has identified several key areas in pre-election promises. These include:

n An additional $50 million R&D innovation policy for long-term employment opportunities featuring the development of a technology school;

The South West Online program will provide high-speed access to electronic services and Bunbury will be home to a $2 million electronic library, a $1.5 million one-stop call centre and a $1 million e-commerce training centre.

n The Information Technology in Education strategy, to be funded from an initial pool of $260 million, will network all schools, ease the burden for teachers and use an innovative IT Skills Card for all Year 10 students.

Making election promises is easy, but the hard work now begins and needs more than lip service and the possibility of money. The entire IT policy needs to be thought out beyond a few election sound bites and requires a comprehensive broad-based program.

Specifically, government de-partments have wasted consider-able amounts of money, a point Dr Gallop cheerfully acknowledges, through developing IT systems that are poorly planned and implemented. For example, tend-ering on government websites is inefficient and works against best practice with its usual emphasis on the cheapest offer and ad-hoc strategies.

To avoid a repeat performance, the new government will need to find a way to get public servants to approach strategy in a consistent manner. Perhaps the first test in that field will be a review of the highly touted CAMS/GEM system.

As far as the education program goes, our next generation will be more Internet savvy than the current one, and any money spent is an investment for business and the community in the future. Given the shortage of qualified IT staff in the State, it also addresses a current need that will only increase.

The South West Online project is interesting but should not WA be fostering that type of development throughout the State?

There is nothing wrong with the elements outlined by Dr Gallop, but the question remains: where is the government strategy for taking WA to the next stage of online excellence?

No one wants to see the return of WA Inc, with government trying to pick winners in business. Rather gov-ernment needs to help create the environment for fledgling as well as existing businesses to become successful on a global scale.

Investment and substantial IT&T can be attracted to WA for viable companies especially given Australia’s undervalued currency and WA’s ideal position as the IT springboard to Asia.

Silicon Valley in California, Silicon North in Canada and the Silicon Isle of Ireland are examples of high-tech takeoff in specific areas. All three had highly-educated workforces, estab-lished business cultures and governments supportive of IT.

Dr Gallop should formulate a comprehensive technology strategy, including investment incentives, and begin planning for the future for the whole of WA.

Who knows? We might be talking about Silicon Outback in 10 years.

Richard Keeves is managing director of Internet Business Corporation Ltd. richard@ibc.com.au

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