Federal $1 billion innovation package


Providers of ICT services to the Federal Government will benefit from the latest $1 billion innovation package, an initiative that coincides with government procurement reforms designed to streamline access to goods and services. 

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has weighed in behind the ICT sector, while opening up business opportunities under an ambitious $1 billion innovation package that was unveiled in December and opens up opportunities in the New Year.

This initiative, to be operational from 2016, makes government procurement more accessible to ICT solutions providers, including start-ups and small-to-medium enterprises. The program is supported by a modernised procurement program under the Digital Transformation Office (DTO). This peak body is charged with driving ICT innovation across government.

This year, businesses will find it easier to compete for the Commonwealth’s $5 billion ICT spending program, to be managed through an expanded digital marketplace. The first proto-type marketplace is due for launch this year. The initiative offers a shake-up of ICT procurement for government, together with closer scrutiny of how government departments and agencies procure goods and services.

Among the reforms, ICT products and services are being standardised. These are broken into component parts to reduce barriers to participation, more specifically by second and third-tier suppliers that face competition from established global players.

The DTO is understood to be looking for a digital chief to lead its high-profile digital program. This is flagged as one of Australia’s largest and most visible transformation projects.

More recently, the DTO has partnered with Pollenizer, an established Australian incubator to find and accelerate innovative ideas. This partnership leverages openly-available government data. 

The Commonwealth’s innovation program sees an expanded use of data, while joining the global ‘data revolution.’ This maximises the use of public data by business to fast-track innovation and strengthen commercial models.

Incentives incorporate removing barriers between different data holdings across government. Non-sensitive data becomes available by ‘default,’ in machine-readable and anonymised form for external use.

This data access is available through data.gov.au/ enabling the private sector to use and reuse the knowledge base to create new and innovative products.

The government’s Data61 www.csiro.au/en/Research/D61 initiative, being managed by the peak agency the CSIRO is being revived to fast-track cutting-edge research into data analysis and cyber-security. This initiative leverages partnerships with universities, while expanding PhD programs and helping students work more directly with industry stakeholders.

Cyber-security and education

The Commonwealth’s innovation roadmap incorporates a Cyber Security Growth Centre.This centre will create opportunities for businesses in the rapidly growing cyber-security space. A $30 million funding package is earmarked through to 2019-20 for the centre, while growing the industry’s cyber-security capabilities.

The global cyber-security market is valued at more than US$71 billion and growing at around eight per cent a year. The Australian centre supports the export of products and services, and helps tackle the growing threat of cyber-crime.

On the education front, new funding encourages young Australians to become tech-savvy. Across schools, the Year 5s and 7s are encouraged to embrace coding skills. Teachers are incentivised to build curriculum around online learning. 

Targeted ICT and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) programs are in vogue, in partnership with leading scientists and ICT professionals.

The administration streamlines its visa arrangements, offering a new entrepreneur’s visa program. This opens up opportunities for STEM and ICT post-graduate students in a highly-competitive international marketplace.

STEM literacy is attracting $48 million, encouraging achievements in science and math, and building the technology skills base.

Investment outlook 

The administration aims to reduce roadblocks involving business investment. These include restrictions around employees sharing ownership, or accessing crowd-sourced equity funding.

The Commonwealth’s reforms open up opportunities for ICT stake-holders, while fast-tracking technology and business innovation. This funding package spearheads innovation across government, education, science, research and infrastructure. 

Among recent initiatives, the Australian Taxation Office is using mobile apps to streamline tax and super access. This app was designed and built in 10 weeks through engagement with key stakeholders and business partners.

An InnovationXexchange was launched under the auspices of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to catalyse and support industry-wide innovation.