Australian government announces grand IT plan

The Australian government's grand plan for the IT future of Australia was launched Monday at Sydney's Technology Park Redfern. Despite the pro-active subtitle, which read "an innovation action plan for the future", the government's statement focused on increases in research funding, as well as providing improved tax concessions for private sector research and development.

According to a joint statement from government ministers Minchin (Industry Science and Resources), Alston (IT, Communications and the Arts) and Kemp (Education, Training and Youth Affairs), the government will address the IT skills shortage through increased investment in tertiary education and further liberalization of the skilled migration arrangement designed to attract migrants with specific skills.

The increased funding will include a A$151 million (US$82 million) investment for universities in mathematics, IT and science education.

As well as creating an estimated 21,000 undergraduate places, the Government has announced an "income-contingent loans scheme, for postgraduate fee-paying students", designed to apply to 240,000 Australians.

Meanwhile, the 125 percent R&D tax concession has been increased to a premium rate of 175 percent for companies that can prove a three-year sustained investment.

The government has also pledged A$129.5 million to an information and communication technology center, and assistance in the process of commercialization of research ideas.

The Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts will administer A$13 million to promote Internet-based business services, however there is no indication that the government is prepared to wade into the bandwidth availability debate.

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