Thursday, 21 May 2020 10:21

AIIA urges govt to appoint minister for digital capability Featured

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Ron Gauci: “Digital policy is fragmented across the federal government departments." Ron Gauci: “Digital policy is fragmented across the federal government departments." Supplied

The Australian Information Industry Association has urged the government to appoint a minister for digital capability to facilitate both industry engagement and policy progress within and outside government.

In a statement issued on Thursday, the AIIA, the main lobby group for the tech industry, said this request was one of the recommendations included in a white paper that it would submit to governments in the country.

According to the AIIA, the minister should be part of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, report directly to the prime minister, advise cabinet and have a whole-of-government and co-ordination role.

Additionally, the minister should be "a conduit for industry and co-ordinate policies supporting Australian sovereign digital capabilities, whole-of-government digital policies, government procurement policies and economy-wide digital transformation requirements including state and federal co-ordination".

AIIA chief executive Ron Gauci said: “Digital policy is fragmented across the federal government departments with responsibilities split across Home Affairs, Attorney-General, Defence (ASD), Digital Transformation Agency, Communications and Industry portfolios.

“Given the fragmentation, there is no central co-ordination of advice to the Prime Minister and Cabinet on many critical issues. We must have a cohesive approach and understanding by portfolio Ministers to issues such as cyber security and sovereignty, supply chains, skills, and data as major decisions are being made in these areas.

“The creation of a Minister for Digital Capability will also allow industry to engage with government taking a whole of government approach to digital capability and cut through often opaque areas of government policy making in areas like national and cyber security,”

The AIIA said the coronavirus pandemic had shown how essential co-ordinated digital policies were to move the country forward during an emergency.

“The pandemic has also highlighted the need for sovereign capabilities in the digital supply chain. Australia must have the skills and innovation ecosystem to support a globally competitive economy as this step change into digital transformation occurs,” Gauci said.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has highlighted the need for a greater digital presence in the economy during a speech at the National Press Club while other ministers have emphasised the importance of digital inclusion at the inaugural National Meeting of Digital Economy and Technology​.

Gauci said this support was important, but added: "It’s encouraging to note that ministers will be tracking the growth of the digital economy, but we also need someone to drive and lead this work, grasping the economic and productivity benefits of digital adoption.”

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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