The SA Government is looking to ICT to enable economic growth, constrain government spending and improve citizen experience, the Hon. Tom Koutsantonis, South Australia’s Treasurer told attendees of the Intermedium/AIIA 2014-15 Budget Briefing on Wednesday 30th July.
“ICT drives business transformation and innovation across all sectors, including Minerals and Energy, and increasingly, it defines how relevant and competitive we are as a global economy,” Mr Koutsantonis said.
Mr Koutsantonis affirmed the Government’s confidence in the resources and construction sectors as South Australia’s opportunity for growth in the face of the downturn in South Australia’s automotive industry.
Significant mining, unconventional gas, as well as offshore and onshore gas and oil ventures will place ICT services “in high demand over the coming years”, said Mr Koutsantonis, adding that “they will want local services, because in order to gain their social licence, they must engage with South Australian businesses and entrepreneurs who become part of their success.”
In parallel to growing the State’s resources industry, the Government has committed $60 million dollars towards the “Our Jobs Plan” to revitalise the South Australian economy, within which the Government also plans to “stimulate innovation and harness the power of IT to help deliver new, sustainable jobs.”
The growth of SA’s Health industry should also not be underestimated for ICT opportunity, said Mr Koutsantonis, noting the $2.1 billion new world-class South Australian Health and Biomedical Precinct including the New Royal Adelaide Hospital (NRAH). A $3 million fund for Health Industries SA (HealthInSA) will seek to leverage this investment and help grow local health technology industry.
Against the investment in growth, the Treasurer emphasised the part ICT innovation must play in achieving the stringent savings measures announced in the 2014-15 State Budget, which will impact agencies until 2017-18.
“We want to make sure that the SA public service is as innovative as possible, to do more with less, and the ICT industry will help us to innovate in better ways.”
Decreasing state revenues are a major factor in the decision to impose these savings measures, explained Brett Rowse, Under Treasurer, Department of Treasury and Finance, speaking at the same briefing.
“Prior to the GFC, SA’s revenues accounted for 16.8% of the national economy. Under the weight of the GFC, we estimate revenues to have dropped to 15.4% of the national whole,” Mr Rowse said
According to Mr Rowse, the Treasury predicts Government revenues will recover to approximately 16% over the forward estimates period, resulting in a reduction of government spending power of $1.3 billion through to 2017-18.
Mr Koutsantonis called upon the ICT industry to tell government how to deliver services in a smarter, more efficient way, to ensure that South Australia remains competitive.
“Innovation is key to reaching our future prosperity. I see the ICT industry as the sword in that fight. The ICT industry, amongst all industries, is at the cutting edge of innovation; your ideas are more important than most, and more important than ever.
“My main message to you is that my door is open,” affirmed Mr Koutsantonis. “The Premier has made very clear to me and the rest of the Cabinet, and indeed the rest of the government, that he wants all of us to re-engage with business.”
Discussing ways for agencies to achieve efficiencies through ICT, Mr Rowse cited the example of Disability SA, which is using Salesforce to deliver its MySupportAdvisor service, which connects people in need to disability services providers. This innovative solution has empowered their consumers with a greater choice of services, but has also produced significant efficiency benefits, said Mr Rowse.
“For instance, payment times have been reduced from 4-6 weeks to 3 days using this system. The workload has doubled, but there has been no increase in staff as a result.”
The newly created Department of State Development, a merger of the Department for Manufacturing, Innovation, Trade, Resources and Energy, and the Department of Further Education, Science and Technology, will be “the front door to government for business”, according to Mr Koutsantonis.
The new department will also coordinate the government’s interaction with Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs). “Creating a climate which is conducive to economic growth is not only about working with large businesses,” said Mr Koutsantonis.
The Treasurer cited Open Data as an area which holds particular opportunity for SMEs, and also a key focus for the government moving forward.
“There is a unique opportunity for the ICT industry, for both young and established entrepreneurs and innovators, to unlock the potential of open data. Openness, innovation and transparency have become new watch words for this Government, for both performance and measurement, and we are attempting to respond.”