The fragmented voices of tech sector industry associations must get better at coordinating their engagement with government if they want to get their messages on key issues across, Industry Minister Karen Andrews says.
This is the familiar lament of successive industry ministers over decades as they have had to deal with the many associations that make up the Australian technology sector. And now it is Karen Andrews turn.
The ‘tech’ industry, and we are talking here about information technology, has not been as successful as other parts of the economy – the retailers, the miners, or the bankers, for example – in getting heard by government.
That’s a problem for tech, Mrs Andrews says.
Without suggesting a consolidation of the 30+ information technology industry associations and professional organisations, Mrs Andrews said the groups introduce a greater level of coordination in their engagement.
“Clearly there needs to be a more coordinated approach, so I am doing all that I can to set up appropriate channels for that engagement to happen,” Mrs Andrews told InnovationAus.com.
“I want the tech sector to understand that I am their advocate in Cabinet and that I will be in there fighting for them. But they need to come to me and talk to me about the issues that are important to them.”
“It doesn’t have to be a consolidation [of associations], but I am looking for a level of coordination from the sector in their engagement with government as the best was for them to represent their industry. I am happy to deal with all of the players,” she said.
“But I am suggesting – or strongly recommending – that on some key issues there is a more coordinated approach. That’s exactly what the likes of ACCI, the BCA and AiG do, but that’s not what happens in the tech sector.”
Despite the significant cross-over on issues and membership, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Business Council of Australia and the Australian Industry Group would find a way to provide a very coordinated approach on key issues, Mrs Andrews
“The reality is that they are quite fragmented. It is difficult for them to get their message across to government about the issues that are important to them,” she said.
“I am keen to work with the tech sector and with startups to make sure that there is a coordinated approach to dealing with government, because this has not happened in the past,” Mrs Andrews told InnovationAus.com.
This also made it difficult for organisations to work through the various support programs that are available to their members. She said her office was working to find ways to improve coordinated engagement.
The chief executive officer at the vendor-led Australian Information Industries Association (AIIA) Ron Gauci last month said the organisation was opening the door the greater collaboration with other industry groups to create a stronger voice to government.
Given how fast the industry was growing and the accelerated pace of tech development, there was both a need and an opportunity to bring the different voices of the industry together.
“We are very aware that our industry is extremely large and that it has many other associations that represent different portions of the sector,” Mr Gauci said.
“What we are saying is that where we can reach agreement about the message and the approach, I believe there is an opportunity for us to collaborate more with other associations to create an even stronger voice to government.
“If by working in collaboration with these [other industry] associations there derived a need to bring together a new, larger independent body, I am saying that the AIIA would be interested in having that conversation.”