Telstra has thrown a funding lifeline to National Information and Communications Technology Research Australia (NICTA) in the form of a $1.1 million agreement for research such as predicting how Telstra’s networks will cope under increased user demand.
According to reports, the agreement represents an initial commitment from what could be a $10-15 billion Telstra research fund.
NICTA is a leading edge technology research body established in 2002 under the Howard government. But the Abbott government, which is a science-free zone, has cut funding to the organisation in the most recent budget.
NICTA will now have to rely largely on private sector funding as from 2016.
The Telstra agreement won’t be enough to save NICTA but it at least represents a recognition of the importance of Australian-based research in the all-important area of information and communications technology.
Telstra is reportedly also negotiating similar agreements with the University of Technology, Sydney, Deakin University and the George Institute for other research projects.
Of course, there is a certain irony in the fact that having wound down its own internal research capacity to close to zero, Telstra now recognises the need to forge partnerships with centres of research excellence which support innovation in a rapidly changing technological environment.
The CWU nevertheless welcomes Telstra’s support for Australia’s ICT research capacity at a time when the federal government appears determined to ensure that we become Asia-Pacific’s Stupid Country in this critical area.