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Sunday, 14 September 2008 10:27

Aussie Government gears up for digital future

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The Australian Government is to prepare and publish an issues paper in preparation for the 'digital future' of the Australian economy.

The minister for broadband, communications and the digital economy, Stephen Conroy, has announced plans to produce a "Future Directions Paper" next year in collaboration with industry, business and other stakeholders, to be published early next year. He said he had met last week with industry and business leaders "to drive the vision for Australia's future in the global digital economy." His department has also just appointed a new assistant secretary for the digital economy.
 
In a speech to a Digital Economy Forum in Melbourne, chaired by Conroy he said: "We need to position now for Australia to realise the full benefits from the Government's infrastructure and other digital economy investments, and realise our ambition to become one of the world's leading digital economies. Like industrialisation, the digital economy is providing benefits across society. We know that the digital economy must underpin Australia's future economic progress. Today a consensus emerged on the need to collaborate to develop a road map for the future of the digital economy in Australia." The forum was preceded by three workshops, focused on capabilities, confidence and content, to consider likely developments and establish aspirations for Australia's digital economy over the next five years.

Conroy added: "The Government is determined to increase effective use of the Internet by consumers and all businesses to drive higher productivity growth and community participation in the digital economy. We need to consider now the potential business models, social and economic challenges, skills and capacity requirements to meet our objective. The workshops and this forum provided a valuable opportunity for a range of stakeholders to be heard, and to contribute to the future directions of the digital economy."

He claimed that most stakeholders agreed about the importance of Government investments in the digital economy – in particular the National Broadband Network and the Digital Education Revolution - and that there was a key role to be played by the private sector by collaborating within industry and with the Government.
 
According to Conroy, "around one third of firms are using online ordering tools, enabling their employees to work from home or are using the internet to research business improvements." He described these figures as "encouraging" but said that more needed to be done to increase the contribution the Internet makes to economic growth. "For example, total business income derived from activity on the Internet, while growing rapidly, is still only three percent. This will be accelerated by the National Broadband Network and the Digital Education Revolution, however, it is important that we work to further develop an environment where this activity can truly thrive."

Conroy said: "We need to know more about how the Australian economy is integrating with the global digital econom. We also need to know more about how Australia is performing compared to our international competitors on an industry sector-by-sector basis, and we need to know more about the factors that are driving or holding back take-up of the internet and e-business."


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