[LINK] Public sector lags on IT research
Mon, 25 Sep 2000 14:04:53 +1100
Public sector lags on IT research
23 September 2000
Too much public money was being invested in traditional sectors such as
agriculture and not enough in new-economy drivers such as communications
and information technology, Communications Minister Richard Alston said
"The proportion of total commonwealth R&D (research and development)
spending devoted to information and communications technology is 9per cent
and falling, while the proportion of business R&D spending in (the same
sector) is 35 per cent and rising," Senator Alston said. "The above figures
clearly demonstrate a disconnect between the R&D priorities of the public
and private sectors."
But Senator Alston also launched a vigorous defence of Australia's status
as a new economy, telling a Sydney conference that it was better to be a
consumer of new technology than a producer.
In a warning to governments and public institutions to focus both on
greater spending and more commercial partnerships with the private sector,
Senator Alston said the "disconnect" between public and private sector IT
spending could hinder economic growth.
He said only five of Australia's 70 co-operative research centres were
concerned primarily with information and communications technology, and the
CSIRO spent less than 5 per cent of its funding on the sector compared with
9.3 per cent for meat, dairy and aquaculture, and 6.6 per cent on wool and
"When hard decisions are made about the strategic direction of R&D funding,
the focus ... should not be on ensuring that funding is evenly distributed
between competing industry sectors or even between states and territories,"
he said. But Senator Alston said Australia's status as a consumer, not a
producer, of new technologies enhanced its claim to the new economy tag.
Australia is a world leader in taking up new technologies such as the
internet and mobile telephones, and an International Monetary Fund survey
this week ranked Australia as the world's second biggest spender - as a
proportion of gross domestic product - on new technology.
"It is not the production of computer chips alone that generates wealth and
income to a nation or corporation," Senator Alston said. "Chips are now
regarded by many as a commodity, just like minerals and metals that some
regard as a structural weakness in the Australian economy. It is the use of
IT that generates wealth."
Senator Alston said Australia was unfairly criticised for failing to
produce global IT companies in the league of Nokia or Ericsson. "The fact
is that apart from a number of our leading telcos, including Telstra, we do
have a significant group of billion-dollar new economy corporates which are
rapidly making their mark on the world stage," he said, citing
Computershare, LookSmart, ERG, MYOB and Keycorp
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