Australia's ICT trade deficit widens

10 year plan set to be released

Australia’s growing ICT trade deficit has has hit A$21 billion (NZ$23.6 billion), according to the 2007 ICT Trade Update released today by the Australian Computer Society (ACS).

The report shows that in 2006, Australia’s ICT exports were worth A$5.7 billion, with significant gains in ICT services exports, while imports cost A$26.6 billion, creating an ICT trade deficit of A$20.9 billion — an increase of 6% over 2005 figures. According to Statistics New Zealand figures released this week, Kiwi ICT exports total $1.6 billion (see briefs this page).

Authored by Professor John Houghton, the Australian report highlights areas that government and ICT industry stakeholders must support to enhance Australia’s competitive advantages and improve the ICT Trade Performance.

Areas covered include education, skills, communications infrastructure and the development of local capabilities. ACS president Philip Argy says while globalisation makes shifts in ICT consumption patterns an inevitable reality, the challenge for Australian industry and policy makers is to elevate the technology debate and to take a more “fine grained” view of local capabilities and competitive advantages.

“We can’t turn the clock back on globalisation, and this means that production of goods and services will continue to become fragmented and geographically dispersed,” Argy says.

“However, this is as much an opportunity as a threat, and the door is wide open for the Australian technology industry to become a force of global significance in high level knowledge based areas. This cannot be achieved while we continue to view the technology sector as isolated in the economic landscape.”

The ACS is currently developing a ten year ICT strategy and policy framework for the federal government and all states and territory governments to consider. It will address on-shoring opportunities, ICT exports, joint programs and R&D.

Ian Dennis, director of the ACS Economic and Industry Policy Board, says Australia’s current and future economic growth depends on, and correlates with, innovative technology development and innovative use of existing technologies.

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