Innovation and Tech Sector Development Policy

Labor wants people to succeed, innovate, develop and create prosperity.  We recognise that it is time for a contemporary approach to the digital economy, open government and Tasmanian tech sector industry development.

Opportunities presented by our emerging Digital Economy are not just for government but for business, social enterprise and all Tasmanians.

Labor will build upon the success of former Tasmanian Labor Governments which have delivered initiatives such as investment in optic fibre across Bass Strait and the roll out of the National Broadband Network (NBN).  Infrastructure and connectivity has improved, now it is time to focus on innovation, transformation and commercialisation.

We recognise that it is critical in a small state like Tasmania for everyone to benefit from technological improvements. To do this we need to work collaboratively, across government, across business and across the community.

For the past decade many economic commentators have pointed towards the Information and Communication Technology sector as a key source of new jobs. Our vision is for Tasmania to be a place to grow industries of the future. Our approach is to lead sector wide thinking to ensure we have the business settings right.

Labor will attract enterprises of all sizes to the State and ensure we have the infrastructure to support our existing, growing and future businesses.

There are four parts to Labor’s Digital Economy Policy, which will be overseen and championed by the Minister for the Digital Economy:

  1. Innovation and Tech Sector Advisory Council
  2. Sparking Start Ups
  3. Combatting the Digital Divide
  4. Switched on State

Innovation and Tech Sector Advisory Council

Not all industries face the same challenges, which is why a majority Labor Government in its first term will establish eight (8) new Industry Advisory Councils, including an Innovation and ICT Sector Advisory Council – to underpin the next chapter in the growth of the sector.

Within the first six (6) months of the first term of government, our Innovation and Tech Sector Advisory Council will lead the conduct of a comprehensive review of the Tasmanian innovation and tech sector, including:

  • The capability of the tech sector to grow and provide new and sustainable employment opportunities in regional areas;
  • Identify opportunities for industry development, research and development, commercialisation, market engagement and collaborations;
  • Assessment and analysis of both the current role and historical impact of Government intervention in the sector;
  • Analysis of the competitiveness of the sector against comparable national and international markets.

Within twelve (12) months we will prepare a Sector and Workforce Development Plan, based on the findings of the tech sector review that will contain advice and recommendations to Government including:

  • The development of new markets and opportunities to generate employment and private sector investment including options for trade missions;
  • The removal of structural impediments to the growth of the sector;
  • Growing a ‘start-up culture’ across the State and removing barriers such as finding office accommodation, access to capital and export markets;
  • The utilisation of the skills and training budget to ensure the current and future labour force requirements of employers is met; and
  • A model for the establishment and support of new industry driven project based learning ventures such as the proven High Tech High approach (in San Diego).

The Tech Sector Advisory Council will also provide ongoing advice to Government about initiatives to increase local content (both labour and procurement), opportunities to enhance and encourage cultural and gender diversity in the workplace, utilise volunteers and facilitate the wellbeing of workers in the sector. Communications data security and resilience planning will form part of the scope of work of the Tech Sector Advisory Council.

Sparking Start Ups 

Labor has a vision for Tasmania to be the most attractive place in the country for digital start-ups.

We have the key ingredients, including widespread fibre connectivity and Australia’s first gigabit internet service, a creative community, a strong research and development base, and proven capacity to commercialise.

Driven by the Department of Economic Growth and Regional Development, a Labor Government will create a competitive and supportive environment for businesses to establish in Tasmania and grow.

Our focus is not just on new business, but also encouraging major tech sector corporations to headquarter parts of their organisations in Tasmania.

Think Space

Labor wants to reduce the barriers to start ups being successful in Tasmania.

That is why we are committed to innovative ways to help support start ups, while also growing the culture of entrepreneurship and innovation in Tasmania.

We recognise that it can be difficult for small and micro enterprises to secure space that is centrally located and has access to high-speed internet at an affordable price.

That is why Labor will conduct a review of vacant and underutilised government office space and make suitable accommodation available at a subsided rate to start-up technology firms for twelve (12) months.

This will assist to remove one of the major initial barriers to small and micro-businesses getting started.  Labor wants to give start ups the chance to establish themselves and be better able to connect to commercialisation, market development and other Government support programs.

Open Government

Labor is committed to putting people first, and we recognise that technology and innovation can help to achieve this.  Labor’s commitment to Open Government is based on our understanding that people have a right to know what their government is doing.  We will deliver transformational improvement in how information is managed and improve freedom of information processes.  Our goal is greater transparency and improved citizen participation.

Labor understands the value of the information that government generates, but we also acknowledge that government does not have all the answers.  We will deliver a contemporary Open Data approach ensuring availability of government held information and data for innovation and research purposes.

That is why Labor will make information and data sets such as environmental monitoring, hydrological, geological, traffic, energy and fuel pricing freely available.

We want to give the best minds in Tasmania the opportunity to create, trial and commercialise apps and other technologies using the wealth of information that government holds.

For example, in the first term of majority Labor Government a Service Tasmania app will be developed to make it easier for Tasmanians to pay government bills through single portal.

Labor has also committed to releasing an app allowing for real-time tracking of public transport.

We know that Tasmanian firms have the capacity to build these applications and Labor will encourage the procurement of this software from local software developers.

Leveraging Government Procurement Power

The Tasmanian Government is a major purchaser of products and services from the tech sector.  Labor recognises the valuable role government procurement can play to help to grow the capability of the sector and to increase the number of Tasmanians employed in it.

Working with the Industry Advisory Council, Labor will lead a review into tech sector procurement practice, including local industry development options, further use of requests for information and seek to establish a culture of partnership and collaboration.

To ensure as much as possible of the government tech spend stays in Tasmania, a Labor Government will consult with industry to ensure government tenders are appropriately scoped to enable local industry to engage in bids.  Our Industry Advisory Council will be a powerful tool to ensure government tenders are informed by local capability.  Local knowledge and tech transfer obligations in tenders will also be considered.

Helping Start-ups to Grow up

The intent behind all start-ups is to grow.

This can be a challenging process but Labor wants to do everything we can to support jobs being created in the tech sector.

Labor will assist businesses to take the next step by negotiating payroll tax incentives for tech businesses crossing into the payroll tax threshold for the first time.

Combatting the Digital Divide

Tasmania has the greatest digital divide in the country. Lack of access to digital technologies and internet creates social isolation and significantly impacts on many Tasmanian’s ability to access the job market, education, government services.

Labor believes that this is just not good enough.  With so many services only accessible online we recognise that we need to do more to make sure everyone is able to access them.

Internet affordability is a key part of digital inclusion and we  know that many Tasmanians have not been able to afford to connect to the internet.

Labor does not believe that young people should be disadvantaged in their learning due to the cost barrier of accessing affordable internet connections.

Labor will use the purchasing power of the next whole of government communications contract to include initiatives to improve internet access for low income Tasmanians.  It is encouraging to know that Australia’s national telecommunications companies formally  recognise there is a barrier and have offered to work together to solve the problem.

Switched on State

Infrastrucutre

It is essential that Tasmania has the infrastructure to support the growing digital economy and important research and development organisations based here.  Labor recognises that we need to maintain robust, high capacity fibre connections to the mainland.   Labor will give consideration to additional sub-marine cables and increased fibre capacity across Bass Strait on a case by case basis – to ensure that our tech sector can thrive in the future.

Labor will work constructively with our industry partners to get the model right.

Increased Mobile Coverage

Labor understands modern consumer communications demands for ubiquitous mobile access. It is not acceptable to still have mobile black spots in Tasmania, not only from a residential and business point of view, but also tourism and safety.

We will continue to address mobile blackspots by working with industry and the Federal Government to identify and improve reception in remote and regional areas of the State.

NBN

Tasmanians were promised full fibre to the premises connections but what has been delivered are streets of haves and have-nots.

Labor is working with our Federal colleagues to deliver a policy that gives Tasmanians access to the best possible network.