It's been called "softer", "confused and contradictory", "packed with policy backflips" and strong hints of political recovery, but Budget 2015 has put digital firmly on Australia's economic roadmap.

Small businesses with a turnover of less than $2 million, a year are one of many digital beneficiaries.

Treasurer Joe Hockey introduced "an immediate tax deduction for each and every item they purchase up to $20,000." It would mean "innovation", he said. Or, on a more practical level, "If you're a tradie, it might be ... a computer for the home office."

"In a further new policy initiative which is just common sense in the digital age, we are abolishing Fringe Benefits Tax on all portable electronic devices used for work, like mobile phones, laptops and tablets," Hockey said. Again, though, this applies to small businesses.

Other entrepreneurship measures that had been leaked prior to Budget 2015 were talked up: proposed employee share scheme changes and relaxed rules on equity-raising using crowd funding.

Those measures count support from the ACS, among others.

"ACS congratulates the Government on initiatives announced in last night's budget to support start-ups and entrepreneurs," the society said.

"Start-ups are drivers of innovation and jobs. It is critical therefore that Government create an environment that supports and encourages them and, very importantly, keeps them in Australia."

How digital emerged

Elsewhere, a number of digital initiatives were re-expressed in dollar terms. The Communications portfolio boasted a $254.7 million injection to drive a "digital transformation agenda".

Its centrepiece is $95.4 million to set up the Digital Transformation Office - the new owner of customer-facing digital service delivery in the federal government. The idea is to ensure services can be "started and finished online".

Other funds are being put into the creation of digital service standards and to the expansion of services currently available under myGov.

"We need to keep up with developments in the new digital economy," Hockey said in his budget address. "Accordingly the Government is investing $255 million to make your dealings with the Tax Office, Centrelink, Medicare, and other government agencies easier, simpler and faster."

The Government also put more detail around its plans to uniformly add GST to digital downloads - another leaked Budget measure that has been colloquially referred to as the 'Netflix tax'.

In some ways, it is a less controversial measure because GST is already levied on some services - iTunes and Google Play - but not others.

"We will level the playing field for Australian businesses by mandating that foreign businesses supplying digital products and services are subject to the GST," Hockey said.

"The application of the GST will be extended to cross-border supplies of digital products and services imported by consumers from 1 July 2017," the Budget stated. "The measure is estimated to have a gain to GST revenue of $350 million over the forward estimates period."

Digital behemoths that try to avoid paying tax in Australia also learned how the Government plans to penalise them. New laws will force such companies - where tax avoidance has been proven - to "pay back double what they owe, plus interest."

Telcos and internet service providers also learned they will receive $131 million over three years to augment systems to meet the Government's new data retention laws. In broad terms, this is likely to be much less than the industry expected.

E-health shake-up

There is $485 million to revive the struggling personally-controlled electronic health record (PCEHR). This will fund more than a rebrand - the underlying elements are being reshaped, including making the system opt-out, rather than opt-in.

"The decision to transform the PCEHR into a new myHealth Record will see the system made more user-friendly and better reflect the needs of health professionals, including better alignment with existing clinical workflows within practices, and to ensure additional information such as current medications lists, and known adverse drug interactions are easily identified by practitioners," Health Minister Sussan Ley said.

The National E-Health Transition Authority (NEHTA) will be replaced with the Australian Commission for eHealth from July 2016, "A transition taskforce will be established to manage the transition between the two," Ley said.

CSC's global healthcare general manager Lisa Pettigrew welcomed the change in e-health governance.

"[We] support the government's creation of the Australian Commission for eHealth as the right step forward to replace NEHTA and set a sustainable governance framework for the future," she said.

Buying time for big science computers

The National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) earned a stay of execution - for another year at least.

This is some good news for high-performance computing facilities such as National Computational Infrastructure (NCI).

Information Age has previously reported on the funding uncertainty, although this latest injection does not allay long-term concerns for the future of these facilities.

Although the extra year of funding was welcomed, some noted it came at the expense of other programs, including $260 million in cuts to so-called "block grants" given to universities to fund research.

"It is great that NCRIS facilities will continue to be supported for the next two years but cutting block grants to researchers in universities is like taking engines off the jumbo jet," Australian Academy of Science president Professor Andrew Holmes AM said.

"You need to fund the scientists as well as the tools they need to do their work, it can't be one or the other. NCRIS needs a long-term sustainable funding model."

CSIRO and ANSTO are also recipients of funding reprieves, according to analysis by the Australian Financial Review - meaning no further cuts other than those previously announced.

STEM vision falters

In the longer term, the future of Australian ICT will in part be determined by how well the Government and industry encourage growth in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills.

Industry minister Ian Macfarlane noted only that "the Government will further deliver on its national STEM policy" this year. The ACS is hoping for more action in this area.

"In today's globally connected digital world, our education and training systems need to place a far higher priority on the STEM skills, including ICT skills," ACS said.

"Jobs in the future will come increasingly from the knowledge intensive industries. These are industries underpinned by people with ICT and STEM skills and driven by innovation and entrepreneurship."

IT projects funded

As usual, a large number of Government IT projects received funding in Budget 2015.

Aside from those already mentioned, the big winners include border protection, intelligence and enforcement agencies, which scooped millions for various core and edge projects.

A full list of the IT winners can be found here.