South Australia onshores India's ICT skills

Australia's persistently controversial relationship with offshoring IT work to India has taken a new twist in South Australia.

If you can't take ICT work to India, bring a little bit of India to South Australia - and keep it there.

According to South Australian Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Emergency Services, Patrick Conlon, speaking at the South East Asian Regional Computer Confederation conference (SEARCC 2005) in Sydney yesterday his government is openly seeking migrants from India with technology skills and makes no apology for it either.

"A lot of people were critical of us for going to India to get skills. Well, so be it, each to his own. But why wouldn't we want to bring the best ICT skills into South Australia? We are very happy to be in India," Conlon said as he also took a humourous swipe at his NSW counterpart Special Minister of State, John Della Bosca saying ICT migrants to South Australia would find their money bought twice as much in a more civilized environment.

"In NSW you'd get a dogbox [train] an hour and you're living an hour and a half out of town. For the same money [in SA] you can have [a place twice as big] in the middle of town...and we don't need the world's third-largest police force because our people know how to behave," he said.

Conlon also defended South Australia's decision to outsource all government ICT to EDS saying it "was the right decision at the time" and had brought unparalleled uniformity to government IT, including a single data centre for the government.

However, Conlon stressed times had now changed and the government would pursue a multi-vendor ICT strategy, guided by newly appointed CIO Grantly Mailes.

Never one to mince words, Conlon joked to the audience that he had been given the government IT portfolio because the premier believed him to be "the biggest bastard in the Cabinet", a reputation he intended to leverage in order to "make agencies work together". "It's not about preserving mediocrity," Conlon said.

The South Australian government has an annual IT budget of around $400 million.