In this, the fourth instalment in our special series on the state of the IT industry in Australia, we speak with Dion Williams, CEO, Servicely.ai 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 (and others)?
The skills shortage is holding Australian tech companies back from competing on the world stage. There has been a tech boom with a number of large US -based investors investing in Australian start-ups. Given the highly desirable lifestyle Australia offers to skilled workers the government can help address the skill shortage in a number of ways :
First, actively market and promote Australia as a destination for skilled IT resources, with the benefit of the Australian lifestyle.
Secondly, focus on supporting tech hubs in regional areas where cost of living is less while offering great lifestyle options. Who wouldn’t want to move from Europe/India/UK/South Africa and live walking distance to the beach, while earning a very liveable wage. Remote working means we no longer need people to be within commuter distance of the city. Regional tech hubs can build a community for like-minded individuals to catchup for meetups etc.
Finally, we need to streamline the visa program for highly skilled resources to easily relocate with their families and start a new life in Australia.
What steps need to be taken to shore up the cyber defences of Australian government departments and agencies?
Governments need to work more closely and collaboratively with large enterprises. We all face the same risks and threats. Sharing information and insights more easily and freely will be beneficial for both government and business. Outside of this, there needs to be an increase in budgets and dedicated agencies should be created to focus on this within government across all agencies, large and small. Cyber risk is only going to increase and is not going away.
Does more need to be done to improve the cybersecurity measures in place within Australia’s private sector?
You can never have enough. Cybersecurity risk needs to be top of the agenda for all boards and company directors. Government can assist with education programs including raising general public awareness. At the same time, the private sector needs to augment this with well-defined education and awareness programs for all staff, not just IT. It is all good and well educating the IT team but most phishing attacks target other parts of the business like finance. Awareness needs to be raised across the entire business with regular training and information sessions, including sharing the latest tactics used by hackers.
Do there need to be any further tech focused tax breaks introduced to ease conditions for Australian businesses?
The employee share options plan needs to be simplified and has to remove any tax implications for the employee until the value of the stock is realised. As 80 per cent of tech start-ups fail, it is not reasonable to expect an employee to pay any tax on something that may never result in cash in pocket.