Priorities in Australia’s IT Sector for the next Government (Part 3)

Craig Somerville, Managing Director and CEO, Somerville

In this, the third instalment in our special series on the state of the IT industry in Australia, we speak with Craig Somerville, Managing Director and CEO, Somerville to get his thoughts on “What our next government needs to do to address key IT business challenges currently facing Australia, regardless of which side wins the forthcoming federal election.”

What is required to overcome the current skills shortage that is causing pain across the IT sector?

This is a problem that is not confined to the IT sector as it’s affecting businesses across all sectors. There are simply not enough skilled people to fill existing vacancies.

When it comes to solving the challenge within the IT sector, we need to be starting at the school level. We should be explaining to school-aged children that there are many and varied options available to them within the sector that can provide them with long, satisfying, and lucrative careers.

It’s often been said that Australia needs to position itself as a ‘clever country’, but to achieve this we need to start with the basics. This includes having structured training paths in place that can guide children through school, into further education, and then into long-term employment. With these paths in place, we will be in a much stronger position to overcome the skills shortage.

What steps need to be taken to shore up the cyber defences of Australian government departments and agencies?

The Australian Government needs to communicate clearly with businesses what a secure organisation looks like. Many struggle to understand exactly what they need to be doing and the steps they should be taking to achieve effective digital security.

We do have the Essential Eight, however this is very technical in nature. To complement it, we also need to have guidelines that are more operationally focused. This would comprise a set of practical steps that businesses of all sizes can follow to improve their overall levels of IT security.

Do there need to be any further tax breaks introduced to ease conditions for Australian businesses?

Most businesses operating in the IT sector are doing quite well and market conditions are relatively buoyant. For this reason, I think other sectors are probably more in need of tax breaks than the IT industry.”

Israel and Estonia are often cited as examples of smaller countries that have nurtured a thriving start-up IT sector. What does Australia need to do to join this list?

Unfortunately, Australia has never been particularly outstanding when it comes to fostering innovation. If you look back to the 1970s, the nation developed the rotary engine which had enormous global potential. However, the developers could not get support here and so were forced to take their ideas overseas.

Investing more in innovative new ideas is key if Australia is to rise to the league of countries such as Israel and Estonia. It needs to be a concerted effort backed by both the public and private sectors.

Modern business depends heavily on the internet. Should the next government ramp up investment in broadband technologies?

This is clearly an area where more investment is required. Having ubiquitous, high-speed internet access across the nation is critical.”

We need to remember that a lot of innovation actually happens outside the major cities. This means that high-speed connectivity needs to be made available everywhere.