As Australia moves into the 21st century its wealth, international competitiveness, national security, social cohesion and cultural richness will be significantly influenced by its ability to develop and exploit intellectual capital and to harness the power of information and communication technology (ICT).
The provision of products and services based on ICT is already a substantial industry. There are over 22 000 ICT businesses in Australia directly employing about a quarter of a million people, and the value of domestic ICT production ($50 billion in 2000–01) amounts to nearly eight per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Despite recent international downturns, the industry is expected to grow significantly over the medium-term and there
are major opportunities for the growth of Australian high value added ICT exports.
However, ICT has a broader role—as a set of enabling technologies and related products and services which underpin the development of Australia as an ‘information’ or ‘knowledge’
economy. An ICT capability in this sense is critical to the achievement of national goals in areas as diverse as security and defence, demographic change, science and innovation,
education and health. Many of the new business opportunities for Australian firms will depend on their capacity to develop new ICT-based products and services which respond to the expanding role of ICT across the economy and society.
Innovation is central to this Framework, from longer-term world-class research and development (R&D) activities, through to the commercialisation of research. Innovation increases the competitiveness of existing businesses and underpins the efficient and equitable delivery of government services. It is crucial if Australia is to grow export-oriented businesses and develop high value added ICT-based products and services. ICT is a core component of Australia’s overall innovation system and the national R&D infrastructure.
This Report identifies the issues that must be addressed on a sustained basis if the full potential of ICT to the Australian information economy is to be realised. Implementation of
its recommendations requires significant on-going work by all sectors of government, industry, researchers and educators. Better performance metrics are also necessary to improve our understanding of the ICT industry and of the productivity benefits of ICT at the company, industry and national levels. ICT is a rapidly moving field and a sense of urgency is required if, as a nation, Australia is to grasp the available opportunities.