Dissatisfied with the competing opinions of IT lobby groups, vendors, peak bodies and bush electorates, federal Communications Minister Senator Helen Coonan wants even more statistics on the state of Australia’s ICT industry, with a study now commissioned a to come up with them.

According to a spokesperson for Senator Coonan, the government wants to get a better grip on the state of the ICT industry. However, the spokesperson stressed, the government was not looking to deviate substantially from its current policy course in the immediate future.

“We have policy…but you need to make an economic case,” the spokesperson said, adding that the only current, hard metrics fitting a variety of economic criteria were based on ageing, Productivity Commission statistics.

The spokesperson said the government was now seeking additional “hard data”.

Details of the study emerged from the government’s central business clearing house, AusTender (RfT DCON/05/7). The call for tenders invites “suitably qualified consultants to submit proposals for research that explains and measures how information and communications technology contributes to Australia’s innovation and productivity growth with a view to advancing “the understanding of the growth mechanisms important to Australia”.

One company already known to have supplied Senator Coonan with comprehensive advice on what it feels the government needs to do about ICT is analyst firm Gartner, which provided a lengthy and public epistle on the government’s current policy shortcomings.

In an intriguing if not charitable break from convention, Gartner’s advice was provided free of charge to Senator Coonan. Senator Coonan’s spokesperson said she was aware the document existed, but declined to comment publicly on the paper.

Penned by Gartner’s Asia Pacific senior vice president Bob Hayward, the paper discusses the wanting state of Australia’s IT industry noting it has “failed to produce many recognized IT companies or exports” and suggests “what policies an incoming government should pursue….to help the sector to grow”.

Delegates at last year’s Gartner Symposium in Sydney were told the analyst firm anticipated around 40 per cent of local revenue for the firm would stem from government consulting.

Submissions for proposals to advise the government close on March 2, 2005.