With the election announced only yesterday, Senator Kate Lundy delivered Labor’s first election salvo on ICT when she opened the Government Technology World conference in Canberra this morning.
Her address was never going to contain major policy announcements. It is too early in the election and ICT is not Lundy’s shadow Ministry portfolio. Instead Senator Lundy focused on applying the blowtorch to the Government’s track record on ICT.
She said, IT infrastructure underpins future economic growth. There is a strong correlation between countries with a strong focus on fostering an ICT industry and overall success in industry development. “The impact of ICT on the economy is greater than the sum of its parts”.
Lundy described the Government’s period in office as “lazy and wasteful years” for ICT policy. She outlined a number of specific examples:
- ICT outsourcing has not been handled well, she said. The Government’s earlier “clustered approach to ICT outsourcing was fundamentally flawed”. Its approach “caused a stripping out of critical ICT expertise” and exacerbated the impact of the government ICT skills shortage. Government agencies now need to invest substantial amounts to rebuild core intellectual capacity.
- The existing contract regime still does not adequately support SMEs. She noted that many terms and conditions for low value contracts still contain unnecessary complexity that is more appropriate for high value contracts. “Government procurement can be an onerous undertaking for SMEs”. Lundy noted that a number of successful SMEs had become successful through selling overseas before they managed to sell to government.
- The government needs to be a smart buyer. Lundy noted that the Government’s tendering and contracting regime had been slow to react to clear problems. While recent changes regarding intellectual property and limiting liability were welcome, they were too little and too late. Lundy stated that a future Labor Government will encourage market testing and ensure that innovation is encouraged in new contracts. She also committed that a future Labor Government would deal with the continuing problems with late payments by government agencies.
- Lundy saved her greatest criticism for broadband policy. She noted that the Government had been a late convert to broadband policy and was still struggling. She observed that the privatisation of Telstra had unnecessarily distracted the Government’s attention. At a time when it should have been encouraging competition and investment in broadband infrastructure, the Government was instead trying to bolster the Telstra share price to make it ready for sale, she said. There was a strong disincentive to invest in expensive but necessary infrastructure.
Senator Lundy concluded that government ICT is not yet at the point where its full potential of has been realised. ICT “is not just core business, it’s part of everything we do”.