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2014 Victorian Election: Five ways to a stronger digital economy

Wednesday, 12 Nov 2014

The Australian Computer Society (ACS) has previously and is continuing to call on the major political parties to address five key issues holding the Victorian and broader Australian economy back.

These five issues have been identified by ACS in consultation with more than 20,000 Australian digital, information and communication technology professionals, industry leaders, national education and training providers, key users of technology, and through our own annual statistical research.

More than 550,000 Australians now work in digital careers and the digital economy contributes more to GDP than mining. While the focus in recent years on improved infrastructure is welcome, it is time to now focus more on how we best use that infrastructure. The ACS believes that if these five key issues are not addressed as priorities, there is a real danger that the digital economy will suffer, and the health of the Victorian economy and broader Australian economy with it.

1. Quality Advice to Government

  • Digital is pervasive, fast moving and critical to driving productivity – so high quality advice in the national and state interest is essential.

  • ACS Victoria proposes a Digital Ministerial Advisory Council, comprised of groups and individuals who represent both suppliers and users of technology skills, together with the professional body.

    • Demand-side issues should drive the agenda.

    • Key issues will include skills needs, education & training, quality standards, digital literacy amongst small to medium enterprises (SMEs) and not-for-profit organisations (NFPs), professional development, and mutual recognition globally of digital qualifications.
    • ACS suggests an important early project for the Council should be an audit of existing Federal and State Government digital related assistance programs to identify where there is overlap, where there are gaps and which programs are working best.

  • ACS also proposes an industry and government exchange program for key staff to develop better mutual understanding of challenges and opportunities.

2. Support for Digital Skills: 

Urgent implementation of actions to reverse the declining trend of people selecting study for a Digital Career.

  • This will require a mix of changing the misconceptions and attitudes as to what a digital career can offer, plus greater collaboration between the training & education sectors, employers, and the professional body to ensure our digital skills base matches economy needs. There is a need for a broad marketing campaign to support the new message of the value of professionalism and its enabling impact on stimulating business activity.

  • Acknowledge that digital careers must be underpinned by minimum professional standards and ongoing learning, and must be seen in terms of value creation as well as the risk of poor technology management.

  • Support the following key initiatives:

    • Governments, Education and Industry to work with the profession to ensure minimum required standards, certification and ongoing professional development are a prerequisite for digital employment. Technology is embedded in virtually everything we do and experience - so quality is essential. Flawed technology work can result in cost blow outs, significant economic loss and human tragedy. Hence we need to ensure we have the right people in the right places to ensure a greater focus on the value of success.
    • Teacher Education Institutions to include standalone ICT/Digital Technologies subjects for all levels of schooling (F-10)

    • Continued support for compulsory Digital Technologies curriculum commencing from F (prep) to 10 in Victorian schools from 2015 with full roll out by 2017. This accompanies the introduction of Informatics and Computing for VCE with subjects starting next year.

    • Targeted professional development support for teachers in ICT and Digital Technologies.

    • Ongoing Government support for the recently announced Digital Careers program aimed at inspiring school students about the opportunities for digital professionals.

  • Cooperation between government and industry in development and rollout of a professional work readiness program to support students to become lifelong learners and to ensure parents understand and value the opportunities that a professionally guided digital career choice can offer.

    • A stronger focus on digital training and support for displaced workers, particularly those of a mature age and those seeking to enter digital careers from other sectors. This is a particularly urgent and important issue in relation to the automotive industry in Victoria and the workers that will be displaced from that industry over the coming years.  The ACS is well placed to assist and help develop and deliver appropriate training content.

  • A continued focus on gender equality and supporting the way diversity of all types adds to current and yet to be established skills.

  • ACS suggests it's time for Government, Education and Industry to take stock of our current skills and competencies to determine the depth of the gap to the future and apply the learning's to the future way we work, recruit and develop our people.

3. Improve Digital Literacy

  • Technology is embedded in virtually everything we do and experience – so minimum levels of digital literacy in our communities are essential.

  • There needs to be a particular focus on SMEs and NFPs who have perhaps the most to gain from technology but generally understand it the least.

  • ACS advocates an important first step is education & awareness programs and business diagnostic services delivered through multiple channels (including greater co operation between competitors to ensure outcomes deliver sustainable and far reaching benefits to the community.

    • Industry, NFP and community sector representative bodies

    • Professional bodies
    • Targeted Government programs – Federal and State

  • ACS, through its 20,000 plus membership, its national footprint, its suite of training programs and its expertise can play an active role in this process.

A leadership role in guiding and supporting the necessary thirst for digital learning and development!

4. Better Data on the Digital Economy

  • Accurate, relevant and comprehensive data is a critical element of planning and decision making in any field, and digital, information and communication technologies are no different.

  • Collecting data on the digital economy is challenging because it is fast moving, pervasive, and is the new driver of economic growth and prosperity.

  • ACS urges the incoming Victorian Government to ensure that the development of its digital related strategies is done so on the basis of as accurate, up to date and complete data sets as is available, including  the ACS’ own Statistical Compendium.

  • ACS urges the incoming Victorian Government to join ACS and other interested ICT related stakeholders in advocating to the Federal Government that we work a collaboratively on a  project with the Australian Bureau of Statistics to conduct a comprehensive review of current digital data categories and methods. 

5. Open Data

  • Governments around the world are committing to open data. The release of government data sets to the public, wherever possible, is fast becoming a standard of ethical excellence in Government.

  • Whilst open data promotes transparency, the real “sleeper” is that it is also provides a platform for innovation. It enables digital professionals to develop new products and services which deliver better outcomes for our communities.

  • ACS congratulates successive Victorian Governments on their commitment to open data in recent years and urges any even stronger focus on open data in to the future as an important element of driving innovation and productivity growth in the Victorian economy.

The current Chairman of the Australian Computer Society in Victoria, Michelle Beveridge, has said “Over many years the Victorian and Australian economies have been undergoing structural reform with a greater emphasis being placed on digital skills and knowledge.  Mining and Agriculture are no longer the only pathways to prosperity.  Like our regional partners, we need to recognise that the Digital Economy has become the key component of the economy, and we need Government to support this vital growth area.”

“An incoming Victorian Government needs to address the five issues the ACS has raised to help the Victorian economy remain nationally and internationally competitive and grow in a sustainable manner. As the impact of technology on our work and lives continues to increase, so must Governments place a higher priority on digital literacy and, in particular, growing our national pool of skilled professionals. The digital professional workforce is now being recognised globally as the key ingredient to sustaining a prosperous, modern economy.”

Further information

Ernest Stabek, Australian Computer Society, 0418 543 122