The ACS – the professional association for Australia’s ICT sector – has released its Federal Election Manifesto, identifying five key policy areas that must be addressed if Australia is to secure its economic future in the information age.
ACS President, Anthony Wong, highlighted the critical need for our political leaders to focus on policies and programs which address the twin challenges of digital disruption and an economy in transition.
“The information age is driving a depth and pace of change which is unprecedented in human history. Added to this is an Australian economy transitioning from one based less on our natural resources strength to one built increasingly around successful services and knowledge‑based industries. Now more than ever, we need our leaders to focus on the issues which will be pivotal to ensuring Australia captures the opportunities of the information age, whilst at the same time ensuring our people do not get left behind,” Mr Wong said.
“The ACS Federal Election Manifesto identifies the areas we believe must be prioritised by our political parties. We are at a potential tipping point as we pursue our aspirations for current and future generations of Australians. We need our political leaders to acknowledge this and we need them to bring fresh, innovative and bold new thinking to address the challenges before us. It is time for decisive action across a number of policy areas,” said Mr Wong.
The five priority areas are:
1. Digital skills and digital literacy – it is critical that we see changes to our education system, particularly in our schools and universities, and in our approaches to workforce planning and training.
The ACS makes a number of recommendations aimed at ensuring our students learn new skill sets and our teachers and the pedagogy support that learning; our universities and employers are working more collaboratively to better match job opportunities with graduate competencies; and that we have workforce planning models which provide real-time information on job markets and education pathways. We also need a stronger focus on increasing SME digital capability.
2. Diversity – we are significantly underutilising our human capital at a time when we have critical shortages in specialist ICT skills. Women account for only 28 per cent of workers in the ICT profession, and mature aged workers only 11 per cent.
The ACS makes a number of recommendations including the development of national workforce strategies which facilitate better collaboration across multiple stakeholders to boost labour force participation rates for women and mature age workers. To help close the gap between male and female employment rates in ICT, the ACS also recommends implementing a campaign to educate and inspire young female students about the exciting opportunities available through a career as an ICT professional.
3. Cyber security – cybercrime is estimated to cost Australians over $1 billion each year, and could be as high as $17 billion annually. As Australia’s digital economy grows – from $70 billion in 2014 to $139 billion by 2020 – increasing our pool of skilled cyber security professionals will be key to transforming our capabilities in this space. We also need to be raising awareness amongst Australians of the potential risks of the internet, such as identity fraud, and educating them on how they might protect themselves online.
The ACS recommends the incoming Government work closely with relevant stakeholders, including the ACS, to expedite the implementation of the Commonwealth’s ‘Cyber Security Strategy’. As a high priority, the ACS also recommends addressing the shortage of cyber security professionals through a series of targeted actions at all levels of the education system, including establishing centres of cyber security excellence in universities.
4. NBN – the reach, speed and quality of a national broadband network is the foundation of a successful digital economy. In 2015, Australia ranked 60th in global internet speed rankings, and 47th for percent of connections above 10Mbps . Despite an accelerated NBN rollout, our relative position globally has not improved. This must change.
The ACS recommends that the NBN ready-for-service (RFS) target for 2018 be revised from 9.1 million to 10 million, and the activations target be revised from 4.4 million to 5 million. ACS also advocates a higher priority be placed on connecting SMEs and education institutions, both of which have a critical role to play in the information age, and that the NBN engage more with local industry as part of its technology supply chain so a competitive telecommunications industry can develop and its network can provide truly innovative service offerings.
5. Policy framework – it is critical that the incoming government adopt a new philosophical approach to policy development in the information age. The pace and size of change driven by digital technology is taking governments into unchartered waters and presenting policy challenges for which history is no guide. A new, innovative approach to the policy development process is needed.
The ACS recommends a new approach should involve a greater input from organisations at the forefront of the information economy. The ACS advocates the establishment of an independent policy advisory organisation, housed and resourced outside of government, with membership drawn from employers, the education and training sector, not-for-profits and professional bodies. Government employees should also be seconded for long-term placements as a way of bridging the gap between private and public sector experience of the information age.
The detailed recommendations in these five priority policy areas are contained in the full ACS 2016 Federal Election Manifesto, which has been published at http://bit.ly/acsmanifesto.