Blog post

AIIA Responds

By Brian Prentice | January 05, 2011 | 2 Comments

After my recent post, Dissecting AIIA’s Flawed Position on IP Rights, the CEO of AIIA, Ian Birks, took the time to write a detailed response which he submitted as a direct comment. Unfortunately a glitch with our moderation settings resulted in Ian’s comments not being posted. While we’ve identified, and can fix the problem I don’t believe it is fair to Ian, or to the AIIA for me to simply add a comment weeks after the initial posting. So in the spirit of having a open dialog I am providing his unedited comments here as a discrete blog post. I will respond in a separate blog posting very soon. My apologies to both Ian and the AIIA for any inconvenience.

AIIA’s Response
On behalf of the AIIA I think I need to directly counter some of the misrepresentations provided in your blog piece and also enlighten you on the broader view to the so called “bad policy” positions that AIIA has been working hard to achieve.

Firstly, in your blog you appear to characterise AIIA as a group that is working to uniquely achieve the aspirations of large multinational ICT vendors. This is absolutely false and ignores the past history of the organisation and its current composition.

The AIIA has over 400 company members and more than 75 percent of these are domestic Australian Small Medium Enterprises. The association features 6 domestic ICT company representatives on its Board and also other domestic ICT representatives represent the vast majority of AIIA’s state and territory branch committee leadership.

You should note that the AIIA Board composition is primarily made up of elected industry leaders who are voted for by AIIA member companies on a one-vote per company basis – and therefore even if there is currently a majority of multinational companies represented on the board, the important point to understand is that this situation has come about because they have been democratically elected by a membership which is comprised of 75 percent SMEs.

It is critical to understand that AIIA takes its role as the leading organisation representing Australian ICT SMEs very importantly and that role has been highly instrumental in the changes to Government procurement terms and conditions that you mention at the start of your article. Of the 12 major contract outcomes featured in the AIIA’s recent negotiations with NSW Government a number of them are specifically focused on benefits for SMEs such as lower caps on insurance levels and limitation of liability changes.

Furthermore, the primary motivator for the push from AIIA to address the treatment of IP in Government contracts is not as you suggest in your blog a move specifically motivated to help multinational ICT firms, but much rather a move designed to all industry, and most significantly assist SMEs that are doing business with government. In truth, the freeing up of IP on a specific piece of Government business is highly unlikely to be a make or break issue for a multinational as their ICT business models are varied and diverse but I am aware of specific situations where it has directly assisted local SMEs stay in business or considerably enhance their business by being able to further promote IP they have developed in one government contract into other government business elsewhere. If you like I will directly introduce to a significant number of local Australian software developers SME CEOs who will unashamedly reinforce this value point. Which makes me wonder – how often to Gartner analysts talk to local industry SMEs about their research positions? How many SME customers do Gartner have?

This SME consideration is connected with another fundamental point you seem to have skipped, which is that all Australian governments, and particularly state and territory governments, have a very heightened interest in supporting local ICT industry development through their activities and including in their procurement and policy positions. It is very progressive of governments in Australia to recognise that the IP is far more sensibly held by the supplier in the vast majority of cases. Those governments that follow this course of policy are directly recognising that they are not typically in the business of commercialising IP and that by being innovative in this sense that they are providing a very real support to local ICT industry development.

Brian, I would close by advising that AIIA would welcome your considered input to the development of our industry positions which are achieved in an open and consultative way with our broad membership. We have a number of member-driven forums in this area including our Government Business Taskforce and our Legal Forum. Within these groups the industry companies that choose to be involved develop industry-wide propositions on how to best take our sector forward. I’m sure the members of these groups would be very pleased to explain to you why streamlined Government procurement, and treatment of IP in particular, are vitally important issues for the industry and government to address.

Ian Birks
CEO, AIIA

Comments are closed

2 Comments

  • Wayne Fitzsimmons says:

    Brian
    I support Ian Birk’s position. I think you are taking a philosophic position on a grass roots problem. If you are an early stage ICT vendor competing against the multi nationals and fighting the ‘too risky to do business with’ issue in government, the policies AIIA have been propsong (as well as others) are making a difference. In fact the Vic Government has a program (now running for two years) where it is encouraging user departments to work with SME\s (not limited to ICT vendors) to solve a specific business issue and fund them to develop a solution. In my experience these SME’s already have an approximate solution (otherwise they wouldn’t have been in discussion with the department concerned) and this another way of them enhancing their IP portfolio so they can compete on the open market…globally. This is smart thinking by government given all of the Free Trade constraints the US government seeks to enforce on the US – Aust FTA – the US does not shirk from using their \Buy America’ ACT to ‘encourage’ SME’s.
    Good discussion – keep it coming.

  • Hi Wayne – thanks so much for your comments. I really appreciate your thoughts and willingness to share in the debate.

    With all due respect I don’t think I’m the one with the philosophic position. I feel I’m coming at this from a principled position. As I stated in my response to Ian’s comments, it is my view that the organization that pays for the creation of the new IP, owns that IP. That’s a principle that guides procurement everywhere – public or private sector.

    On the other hand, the AIIA is advocating a position which seems very philosophical to me. That by granting, by default, the rights to newly-created IP to individual organizations, that somehow the industry as a whole benefits. That view – which requires a fundamental re-jig to the common expectations people have of property ownership – comes without supporting evidence of how current rules on IPR retention have been hurting the industry nor any mechanism to prove to the government whether these policy changes have had any effect. It comes from the highly philosophical view that IP should only be owned by organizations that are prepared to expressly commercialize it (although there’s ample proof that governments often gain commercial advantage from their IP while IT vendors often don’t expressly commercialize their own IP).

    If you concern is the growth of the local IT industry then I would suggest that there are many other effective ways to achieve this outcome rather than this particular policy. One of those, which I’ve mentioned on numerous occasions, is for governments to use more open source so that the newly-created IP in question is available to all provides in the industry, not just the one contracted to do the work.

    Thanks again.