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Wednesday, 03 March 2010 20:31

More blah blah blah: IT Advocate announced

The problems small and medium sized Australian companies face in winning Commonwealth IT contracts are as perennial as the grass. Two and a half years into a three year term and the Rudd Government solution is the appointment of a "respected industry figure" to "provide leadership."

Announced jointly by Industry Minister Kim Carr and ACT Senator Kate Lundy, the IT Supplier Advocate will act as a broker and spokesperson - especially for small and medium sized companies - in the tech sector and to help local firms win more federal business. Advocates have already been appointed at the greasy rag end of the industry spectrum for the rail and steel sectors.

Senator Lundy, who is in Germany at the giant CeBIT technology fair in Hannover, said Government CIO were "often hesitant to undertake business with small to medium-sized businesses due to perceptions of risk," and that the IT Supplier Advocate would work to mitigate "these often unfounded perceptions."

Senator Carr said the IT Supplier Advocate would be announced by the end of the month after consultation with his Information Technology Industry Innovation Council.

NICTA's Canberra-based eGovernment Technology Cluster is expected to work with the IT Supplier Advocate and provide services and facilities to help SMEs field test their products and services and prove the scalability of their technology.

"Small business competes for government contracts on a level playing field in Australia and that's how they like it," Senator Lundy told a conference at CeBIT.

"While a supplier advocate won't change this, it will ensure the scales don't tip against small business competing for government contracts in unfair or unreasonable ways," she said.

No mention of the $43 billion National Broadband Network roll-out plan, or the potential for local firms to either participate in its delivery or benefit from its construction.

More interesting from an industry development point of view in the tech sector is the emerging fund Senator Lundy is calling the "innovation dividend" - the 50 per cent of Gershon-inspired savings that Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner committed to reinvesting in Government technology.

The first projects to be funded through Gershon savings are expected to be unveiled by Mr Tanner this month.

"It is estimated that over the four years from 2009 to 2013, $502 million Australian dollars of savings will go into this fund and be available for reinvestment," Senator Lundy said.

"In this way, project funding for specific innovative solutions that will save money and have a transformative effect is provided to departments over their normal allocation," she said.

"This significant policy action will break open some of the constraints that long term contracts impose. Years of experience have taught me ICT procurement can make or break a government's capacity to innovate and deliver just about any program."


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