• Great articles on other sites
  • RSS Great articles on other sites


  • Renai's other site: Sci-fi + fantasy book news and reviews
  • RSS Renai LeMay

  • Industry, Opinion - Written by on Wednesday, December 4, 2013 14:24 - 1 Comment

    The Australian IT sector needs a stronger voice

    loudspeaker

    This article in relation to Delimiter’s call for an Australian technology policy think tank is by Matthew Griffiths, chief executive of Broadreach Services, a leading Australian dedicated video conferencing and digital media managed services provider. Griffiths has been an active participant across the tech sector in Australia for the past 10+ years, with involvement in the Commercialising Emerging Technologies (COMET) Program as well as in Commercialisation Australia.

    opinion The Australian IT industry has an image problem.

    The biggest issue we face is the misconception about the whole industry, particularly its size and impact. This is because it is largely hidden from view … the majority of employee in IT work as micro businesses, start-ups, and independent contractors, or in departments in other businesses (such as banks, miners, and government departments).

    The Australian Computer Society suggests that the ICT sector employs over 540,000 people in Australia, working inside over 30,000 businesses. Of the 500,000 employees, approximately 250,000 work in IT support functions in other industries.
    By way of contrast, the Australia automotive industry is easy to measure, highly visible, and easy to access (Ford, Holden, Toyota and then some parts suppliers). It is also extremely effective at lobbying, with measurable success.

    This is important with regards to government policy and thinking.

    Anecdotally, the government will pay approx. $30,000 to $50,000 to create or save each sustainable job. Thus 1,000 job losses in the Illawarra converts into a $30m Regional Investment Fund. Saving 3,500 jobs at Ford equates to a $103m subsidy on new product lines. On a larger scale, saving an 80,000 person auto industry (45,000 direct employees – including approximately 3,000 at Ford) justifies over $6 billion of subsidies over time.

    The IT industry in Australia is over ten times the size of the automotive industry.
    In terms of challenges and existential threats, there is also no contest – the challenges facing individuals and companies in the Australian IT industry are far larger.

    IT jobs can be outsourced (and offshored) at very little cost; efficiencies and new technologies cut swathes through the industry every few years. Skills become obsolete in years not decades, and to create a sustainable competitive position requires true innovation and competition in a global market. Partly as a consequence, the average IT worker is highly skilled, and retrains constantly … even so jobs are constantly under threat from new technologies and cheaper resources.

    In a recent ACS employment survey, almost 25 percent of respondents had experienced some form of unemployment in the past five years (9 percent in the past 12 months); over 75 percent worked over 40 hours per week; and almost three quarters believe they will need further significant professional development in the next one to two years.

    Just based on these ACS statistics, possibly 100,000 Australian IT jobs are “under threat” at any given time, with outsourcing, short term contracts, market testing, efficiency gains, and the uptake of new technologies all creating uncertainties in the market.

    As an industry, we have significant structural issues, and are also affected by a lot of the same issues Australian manufacturers care about; from a strong dollar, expensive labour, and cheaper competitors. In the face of this, the Australian IT industry innovates, retrains, and continues to grow — all without significant government support and subsidies.

    However, there are many areas for improvement; from under-writing angel investment and employee stock ownership plans in technology start-ups, and helping SME’s to access bank credit, through to accelerating technology innovation and adoption in the public sector (cloud computing, etc.) Australia could do a lot better.

    The call for a technology policy think tank is opportune and probably long overdue. The Australian IT industry is a massive industry, a huge success story for Australia, and well deserving of its own voice.

    Print Friendly

    1 Comment

    You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

    1. Peter Carr
      Posted 05/12/2013 at 10:37 am | Permalink |

      I like the sentiment but hyper competition for every dollar (driven by our industry demographics) means we have driven our own cost-based grave. The collective “we” of IT are cannibals. And who trusts a cannibal?

      That doesn’t mean there isn’t money, investment, value and growth to be found. The fact that IT is in every industry also doesn’t mean there is a ubiquitous threat.

      It therefore also doesn’t mean there is a collective sector to support as the existence of multiple and disparate codified IT associations suggests. By their very charters they are self-serving to subcategories of “IT”.

      So which parts of the complex supply-chain need saving? Which parts get the investment funding? The part with the loudest lobby groups? How do you means-test an IP-based sector? Just blue collar IT jobs (typically those targeted for sourcing)? Why? Isn’t it white collar IT jobs that “create” value and long term economic benefit?

      And what’s wrong with sourcing whether its here or overseas? Doesn’t that ultimately help the organisations we serve? In terms of sourcing is it the value created by Australian IT workers for their employers or the high labour costs that is the bigger challenge for Australia?

      I’m not convinced any of the GMs, CEOs or other significant influencer roles I do or don’t support in business have ever differentiated. And the fact that there are only about half a million IT workers supporting all the companies in Australia means we are very short-staffed and resourcing will get even tighter. There is an equal argument to welcome outsourcing in order to drive economic growth by freeing up the valuable resources we have.

      Free market economics has always defined the sector and I think the debate will always be philosophical. Occasionally it drifts towards the ethical during low economic cycles. I also think a national IT think tank is a conceptually flawed idea, especially where “investment” generation would be its focus. We have bigger problems than finding money.

      Adoption of IT and not innovation is a far greater challenge for most companies today.




  • Get our weekly newsletter

    All our stories, just one email a week.

    Email address:


    Follow us on social media






    Use your RSS reader to subscribe to our articles feed or to our comments feed.

  • Most Popular Content

  • Enterprise IT stories

    • Legacy health software lands SA Govt in court doctor

      In which the South Australian Government comes up with complex legal arguments as to why it should be able to continue to use a 1980’s software package.

    • Microsoft wants to win you back with Windows 10 windows-10

      The latest version of Microsoft’s Windows operating system will begin rolling out from Wednesday (July 29). And remarkably, Windows 10 will be offered as a free upgrade to those users who already have Windows 7 and 8.1 installed.

    • Qld Govt Depts have no disaster recovery plan brisvegas2

      Two sizable Queensland Government departments have no central disaster recovery plan, the state’s Auditor-General has found, despite the region’s ongoing struggles with extreme weather conditions that have previously knocked out telecommunications and data centre infrastructure.

    • ASD releases Windows 8 hardening guide windows-8-1

      The Australian Signals Directorate appears to have released a guide to hardening Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system, three years after the software was released for use by corporate customers, and as Microsoft is slated to release its next upgrade, Windows 10.

    • ASG picks up $35m CIMIC IT services deal money

      Perth-headquartered IT services group ASG this week revealed it had picked up a deal worth at least $35 million over five years with CIMIC Group — the massive construction and contracting group previously known as Leighton Holdings.

  • Blog, Policy + Politics - Jul 31, 2015 12:43 - 0 Comments

    Google ploughs $1m into Australian tech education

    More In Policy + Politics


    Blog, Enterprise IT - Jul 31, 2015 14:16 - 1 Comment

    Legacy health software lands SA Govt in court

    More In Enterprise IT


    Industry, News - Jul 28, 2015 12:37 - 0 Comments

    ICAC to investigate NSW TAFE ICT manager

    More In Industry


    Consumer Tech, News - Jul 29, 2015 17:14 - 11 Comments

    Telstra integrates Netflix, Stan, Presto into re-badged Roku box

    More In Consumer Tech