Watch out, Victoria: NSW wants to lead Australian ICT


Victoria looks to have a dogfight on its hands to retain its title as Australia’s technology capital, with the new Coalition State Government in NSW today vowing it would lead the nation when it came to the sector.

Although Sydney houses the Australian headquarters for most multinational technology giants operating Down Under, as well as large facilities owned by local companies like Telstra and Optus, successive New South Wales State Governments have placed little focus on developing the local technology sector, preferring instead to focus on other areas such as tourism.

In comparison, both Victoria and Queensland State Governments have indicated a strong focus on developing the local technology sector over the past half-decade, appointing ministers for to interact with the sector and outlining incentive programs for technology firms to set up shop in their states. Victoria has been particularly active in the portfolio in a sustained way over the past decade.

However, in a joint statement issued today under the names of Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner, Treasurer Mike Baird and Finance and Services Minister Greg Pearce, the new NSW Coalition Government made it clear that was all about to change, with their Government aiming to make NSW “the nation’s leader in information communications and technology”.

Stoner, who is also the State’s Trade and Investment Minister, said he was particularly interested in engaging with the local ICT industry and exploring how the Government’s ICT strategy could be complemented by industry action plans.

As a first step, the Government today held what it badged as a Strategic ICT Forum at NSW Parliament House, consisting of more than 80 industry and government leaders. Pearce described the event as the beginning of “a new era” of ICT investment and opportunity in NSW.

“The NSW Liberals & Nationals Government has a vision to put ICT front and centre of government,” he said. “We want to be the leaders in ICT innovation and delivery.

“NSW residents are tech-savvy and they expect their Government to move with the times, providing the services they need in the ways they need them. Whether it is through one stop shops or whole of Government apps, we need to make it as easy as possible for residents to interact with Government. ICT provides the way to better deliver services to residents while at the same time enabling Government to be more flexible and efficient in the conduct of its business.”

Under the previous Labor Government, Pearce said, which had governed the state for 16 years before the landslide Coalition victory earlier this year, ICT investment in NSW was “ad hoc and disparate”, with agencies undertaking projects in isolation from the rest of government and from industry.

In contrast, he said, the new Government would develop a new ICT strategy that would allow the state to take leadership in the sector. The core principles underpinning the strategy would be the alignment of service delivery objectives within the government (with the aim of improving the delivery of government services), facilitating efficiency gains through strategic and targeted ICT investment, and “more effective” government interaction with industry and the research sector.

The event this week is the second in a month that the new NSW Government has held to focus on the technology sector. During the CeBIT trade fair several weeks ago, the Government launched its new Digital Sydney project, which aims to bolster local industry development associated with the digital economy. At the time, Stoner announced funding for some 20 new ICT projects to be based locally.

Image credit: Jimmy Harris, Creative Commons