Fran Foo I From: The Australian I May 10, 2011
THE Gillard government has been urged to put technology skills at the forefront of today's federal budget or risk further cost blowouts that will hurt taxpayers in the long run.
Wayne Swan is expected to boost skills training and create an additional 16,000 slots for skilled migrants in regional Australia. But the IT industry wants other concrete measures -- such as tax breaks and R&D concessions -- to address the skills shortage in the long term.
"The big issue is around cost pressures across all industries. Since the financial crisis, demand for IT skills is on the rise (rapidly)," Capgemini Australia public sector head Shelley Oldham said.
Ms Oldham said that based on the spike in demand and salaries, some of the bigger government projects could blow out by $50 million, while a company conducting a $40m mid-sized project could have a budget overrun of $8m.
"If you're a bank and you've decided to spend $1 billion over two years on IT and your cost has just jumped 20 per cent, that's going to flow back negatively," she said.
"In the late 1980s, the government created industry placement programs that had R&D tax and investment concessions, and grants to build more ICT capability. But the way things are heading at the moment, there's going to be a greater reliance on offshore (skills).
"In the long term, that erodes our skill base quite dramatically."
Ms Oldham said the government should create incentive programs to encourage cottage industries to stimulate the digital economy in National Broadband Network sites in regional areas.
I'm hoping we get to see in the budget something that stimulates the ICT industry to build productivity, create new applications and go beyond the pilot NBN sites," she said.
NBN early rollout site Ipswich in Queensland, for example, could be given funds to establish a national base for remote diabetes monitoring.
"Government should marry the NBN (infrastructure) with applications instead of having them as silos," Ms Oldham said.
Ovum Australia public sector IT research director Kevin Noonan said he expected the government to run the ruler over non-performing projects as it looked for savings.
Copyright 2011 News Limited.
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