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Billions demanded for IT -

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Billions demanded for IT

Annie Guest reported this story on Thursday, December 17, 2009 12:39:00

ELEANOR HALL: Software developers are warning that the national broadband network will need a
better IT industry if it's to reach its full potential.

They've accused the Government of spouting empty rhetoric about a knowledge economy and are calling
for billions of dollars in funding, as Annie Guest reports.

ANNIE GUEST: The recordings of pilots found on black boxes have helped explain the cause of
hundreds of aeroplane crashes since the device was invented in Australia about the middle of the
last century.

But computer software developer John Owen says the technology was lost to the Australian economy.

JOHN OWEN: This was obviously a technology which would be extremely beneficial in the commercial
aviation business but unfortunately wasn't recognised as being so in Australia so they ended up
going overseas for commercialisation.

ANNIE GUEST: John Owen makes software that supports qualitative analysis. His company has won three
domestic and international awards for information technology this year.

But he says IT companies like his cannot reach their potential in Australia, particularly since a
shakeup of research and development funding last year.

JOHN OWEN: There's a number of companies for instance that were dramatically affected in the
industry when the R and D funding was pulled and therefore they either had to look for additional
sources or potentially go overseas.

There has also been cases where organisations have had to delist in Australia and relist in America
basically to receive the sorts of venture capital funding they require.

ANNIE GUEST: The Federal Government has been reworking its $700 million research and development
funding program.

John Owen says innovators need more support if Australia is to reduce its reliance on mining and
other primary industries.

Various Australian governments have promoted their support for a knowledge economy but John Owen
says it looks like empty rhetoric.

He says billions of dollars in funding is needed for innovation as well as better cooperation
between the industry and educational institutions.

JOHN OWEN: There's a lot of very skilled, very, very clever innovation taking place throughout
Australia but they need this support in order to make it on the international market.

ANNIE GUEST: Why should the Australian Government and taxpayers effectively subsidise the
development of private businesses?

JOHN OWEN: Well I think they've got to look at the future. They've got to look at what Australia,
or the position Australia wants to be in, in the future. Does it want to be known and be successful
in the high technology that is undoubtedly going to become critical and vital for its economic

ANNIE GUEST: And his industry peak body, the Australian Information Industry Association, says the
national broadband network will need a better IT industry if it's to reach its full potential.

The World Today requested an interview with the Federal Minister for Communications Stephen Conroy
but he's yet to respond.

ELEANOR HALL: Annie Guest reporting.