Bartlett launches Tasmanian digital economy strategy


Tasmanian Premier David Bartlett (pictured above, second from the left) yesterday released a new innovation strategy for the state, including a segment on how the state government can invest to promote Tasmania’s digital economy.

The innovation strategy was one item promised during Bartlett’s election campaign earlier this year, when he also pledged to establish a new ministry for innovation, science and technology. He did end up establishing that ministry — but appointed himself to lead it.

The strategy outlined yesterday included a variety of funding measures, reaching a total of $5.85 million, to “increase awareness of the opportunities provided by the digital economy”. The measures were:

  • A $1m industry awareness initiatives, NBN4Business, to educate Tasmanian industry on benefits from the National Broadband Network
  • $600,000 on other awareness-building strategies, such as “a hands-on digital coaching pilot” and “a digital toolkit for small businesses”
  • $250,000 on research for the impact of the NBN on business engagement in the digital economy and the effectiveness of government programs
  • $400,000 to migrate key business websites to “the government 2.0 model”
  • $3.6 million for a Digital Futures Capital Fund, to fund the “development and delivery of digital content, applications and services” that add value to those engaging in Tasmania’s digital economy
  • A Digital Futures Advisory Council
  • Collaborating with industry and TasICT to develop a “Digital Economy Industry Strategy”

“As a small state with huge natural advantages, we need to be as clever and creative as possible in growing and modernising our industries, and securing jobs and prosperity for Tasmanians, for decades to come,” Bartlett said in a statement.

“The Innovation Strategy will guide investment in those sectors where Tasmania has deep capability for more growth and more jobs. These are the sectors that make Tasmania special – even unique – in Australia, and the rest of the world.”

Bartlett claimed that many Tasmanians in the past had been “true innovators” — being decades ahead of their times in embracing renewable energy through the state’s hydro-electric scheme.

Other sector picked up substantially more from the plan than the IT sector — up to $56 million was allocated to a public/private partnership on renewable energy and smartgrids, with a further $30 million put into a renewable energy loan fund. And $12.8 million was ploughed into developing the Tree Capes Track to boost tourism.

Digital Tasmania spokesperson Andrew Connor said that in general his group welcomed the strategy, noting that it had been calling for more consumer awareness of what ICT can do for the state.

However, he noted that parts of the plan were dependent upon the NBN — which the Coalition has pledged to cancel if it wins Federal Government, and that the plan was a little overdue as it was promised earlier this year.

He pointed out it would have been hard for the plan to take into account the Coalition’s federal broadband policy — which was only released several weeks ago, and said if the NBN project was cancelled, the innovation strategy would consequently be set back.

“I think most, if not all, stakeholders in Tasmania are supportive of the NBN,” he said.

“If Abbott does slide into office we will prepare for cuts to the NBN rollout. Luckily, that’s still a hypothetical,” Bartlett wrote on his official Twitter account yesterday.

Image credit: NBN Co