Budget 2018: IT industry welcomes tech focus
The federal government has committed $2.4 billion for technology projects in its latest Budget, including upgrading Australia’s research and supercomputing infrastructure.
Around $1.9 billion of the total investment will go towards upgrading Australia’s national research infrastructure over the next 12 years.
The Budget also includes $70 million for deploying new high-performance computing infrastructure at the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre, $160.9 million for a satellite-based augmentation system, $26 million to create a national space agency and a $29.9 million investment in strengthening Australia’s capabilities in AI and machine learning.
The Budget also covers funding for existing and new IT projects such as the modernisation of the Medicare payments system ($106.8 million), the accelerated implementation of the GovPass single identification system ($92.4 million) and the rollout of a national criminal intelligence system ($59.1 million).
Representatives of the Australian ICT industry have generally reacted positively to the Budget.
Ping Identity’s Asia Pacific CTO Mark Perry said the company is excited by the $65 million investment into the local IT industry to encourage the development of a modern, secure and user-centric data industry.
“On the back of the Productivity Commission’s inquiry into Data Availability and Use, and the funding of an Australian Open Banking initiative in the 2018 Budget, Ping is encouraged that the identity security concepts and open standards we have been championing will help to deliver these initiatives in Australia,” he said.
Brendan Maree, VP for APAC at communications and collaboration company 8x8, likewise praised the government’s focus on IT investment to support digital transformation and the development of STEM skills.
“[This focus] is certainly encouraging and comes at a time when the world is becoming increasingly digitally connected,” he said.
This focus on addressing the ongoing skills shortage will be essential in ensuring Australia is in a position to reap the benefits of a data-driven strategy, added Tableau Country Manager for Australia and New Zealand Nigel Mendonca.
“This is where empowering everyone with data and initiatives such as the funding programs to upskill the workforce introduced by the Australian Government becomes imperative, so that businesses are still able to harness the value of data.”
Tribal Group APAC Managing Director Peter Croft welcomed the increase in funding for the research sector, but expressed disappointment in the lack of additional funding commitment for the VET student loans sector.
“Although we recognise the continuation of the Skilling Australians Fund arrangements, we encourage the federal and state governments to do more to work collaboratively to make the National Partnership Program work,” he said.
Snowflake Computing VP of Sales for APAC Peter O’Connor said the government’s investment in digital services “will benefit public sector agencies to realise operational cost savings and gain efficiencies by reaping the benefits that cloud services provision now provides”.
Security experts also welcomed the Budget’s investments in cybersecurity, which include a $9 million allocation for the Department of Parliamentary Services to build a security operations centre for Parliament House.
“We see last night’s announcement of continuing investment in cybersecurity as a positive step forward for businesses, and the country as a whole. By placing a focus on security the government acknowledges that the risk of cyber attacks is very real and we believe this serves as a timely reminder that it’s no longer viable for businesses to take a laissez faire approach to security,” said Aura Information Security Australian Country Manager Michael Warnock.
WatchGuard Technologies ANZ Regional Director Mark Sinclair said the Budget also reinforced last year’s Budget commitment to provide $2100 in co-funding for small businesses to have their security tested under the Cyber Security Small Business Program.
“However, what’s really needed is for this specific program to actually get kicked off. Given that most Australians today work in small businesses, the government should also take it a step further and assist small businesses with the cost of making their networks more secure,” he said.
CQR Consulting CEO Phil Kernick also urged the government to act to address the shortage of qualified security experts, by bringing together businesses and the education sector to help them understand the benefits of security courses and training.
Meanwhile, as future cyberwarfare will be waged between machines, it is critical to invest in technologies such as AI, added LogRhythm APAC Sales Director Simon Howe.
“It is also important to nurture an environment where the best talents and ideas can be developed. As can be seen from recent incidents, data protection should also be top of mind and clear guidelines are needed for the public agencies not within the purview of the Mandatory Breach Disclosure regulations.”
Not everyone was happy with the priorities in this year’s Budget. Indra Manager Giovanni Polizzi expressed concern that there was not a greater focus in the Budget on renewable energy.
“Keeping an eye on promoting investments in technology for power networks would have also been desirable, as these organisations should avoid costly network infrastructure augmentation by digitising their operations and so harness the opportunities offered by demand response and distributed renewable generation.”
Representatives of the emerging blockchain industry also welcomed the $700,000 allocated for the Digital Transformation Agency to investigate blockchain technology, but urged the government to do more.
BitTrade co-founder and Managing Director Jonathon Miller said blockchain could bring very interesting efficiencies to the public sector.
“Bit Trade welcomes this initiative but the quantum of spend is very low for a technology that needs scale and mass adoption to achieve these efficiencies,” he said.
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