Now that the dust has settled on the 2021–22 federal Budget, here is a brief overview on what is in it for the tech sector. While there were many positives in the federal Budget 2021, I will gladly support the more cautious and collective shrugging of the shoulders by the technology sector. The technology industry received $1.2bn funding support — from this around $500m goes to two federal government projects. That leaves $700m for everything else. Considering how much everything costs in the tech sector, it is a relatively small funding pie.
It’s a truism that you need to keep learning, growing and challenging yourself. Information technology (IT) provides more opportunity for this compared to other fields — it seems every time you turn around there’s a new service, API product, business model and more. Sometimes the changes are incremental, and other times they force you out of your comfort zone. I have been forced out of my comfort zone many times over the years — Linux, Windows Vista (that wasn’t just me, right?), and in more recent times the shift to the cloud, to pick a few. All these changes and developments required me to learn and adapt — to find out the best way of working with these new tools, or new paradigms?
In education IT we have a phrase — ‘technical solution to a people problem’ — to describe the use of technology to solve a behavioural problem that would be better solved simply by having people behave more sensibly or by following existing rules… rather than trying to implement increasingly baroque limits with technology, which are invariably bypassed because the problem is that the user isn’t respecting the rules in the first place. When it comes to COVID-19 contact tracing, it has become clear that Bluetooth-based contact tracing is a technical solution to a public health problem. This applies to both the COVIDSafe app, which is technically deficient in multiple ways, as well the Google/Apple Exposure Notification, which is conceptually deficient.
What a year. COVID-19 has left barely any aspect of our lives untouched, but in IT the change and acceleration it has wrought led to the pandemic being called ‘CIO of the year’ back in April. And it deserves that title, having shown businesses the value and necessity of investment in IT for working from home and without physical contact. Most of these technologies have been around for a while, and often employees were asking to use them but being refused by recalcitrant IT departments. Let’s go through some of them.
The education sector has had a rapid infusion of technology thanks to COVID-19, but it hasn’t gone smoothly or equally at all schools. As someone who works for a school, I was on the frontline of this, and I’ve also read a lot about how other schools approached the challenge. Here’s what I’ve observed.
There appears to be a somewhat schizophrenic collective opinion when it comes to Australian ICT skills. On one hand, we have reports that paint a negative picture in regards to the lack of adequately trained and skilled local (Australian) ICT workers. If those reports are to be believed, it would appear that Australia is lagging significantly behind the rest of the developed world in terms of critical IT skills (eg, cybersecurity). On the other hand, we regularly see data that talk to the world standard of our university degrees and the high number of international students who are flocking to them, with IT and technology disciplines regularly being in high demand.
It seems that every day there is yet another case of unethical behaviour related to the technology sector. Whether it is the alleged involvement of the Chinese government with Huawei or a case of an ‘insider threat’ (typically a trusted individual doing something that is ethically and/or legally questionable), bad behaviour appears to be rampant throughout our industry. Intuitively, as IT professionals, we turn to technological solutions to try to solve problems. Configuring (higher levels of) encryption, ensuring logical centralised management and updates are all part of the solution. In a perfect world, this would result in all devices being secure and very little ability for ‘bad actors’ to gain unauthorised access to things that they shouldn’t.
Information technology is obviously not as vote-a-licious as many other areas of public policy, despite what we in the IT trenches think. The big news since the previous article is of course the release of Labor’s budget, but there aren’t really any surprises in the IT space there. In this article we’re not going to be reviewing whether the numbers stack up or not. Rather, we’re just going to try to untangle where there are intersections with our sector and what they might mean. We’ll avoid items already considered in Part 1.