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IT Florida Issues Annual Report

April 14, 2000

Encouraging venture capital investments, creating R&D tax exemptions, and establishing three new technology-based organizations are just a few of the recommendations included in the first annual report of ITFlorida.com. The 34-member Information Service Technology Development Task Force was created by state legislation last year to assess the health of Florida's information technology industry. The Task Force also was required to recommend policies and legislation that would advance telecommunication networks and information technologies within the state.

Eight subcommittees were formed to explore IT's role in business development and recruitment, K-12 education, workforce development, access and awareness, government, administrative and regulatory laws, civil and criminal laws, and infrastructure and technology development. In the report, a chapter is dedicated to the findings and recommendations of each subcommittee. Few funding specifics, such as amounts, sources or revenue implications, are identified for the recommendations.

The enabling legislation for the task force sunsets in June 2001, however, the group's first recommendation is to privatize ITFlorida.com so it can help guide the implementation of the plan. Additionally, the task force recommends the formation of a Florida Research Alliance to establish new university-industry collaborative research programs and linkages across the state. The progress the state makes toward improving its posture in the New Economy is to be tracked through an annual indicator analysis.

Several tax exemptions and changes are recommended, including: creating a silicon technology tax exemption and an R&D tax exemption, modifying the qualified target industry tax refund program, and repealing the intangibles tax. "IT Empowerment Zones" and technology incubators are proposed as possible tools to attract venture capital investment and business start up incentives. Allowing more risky venture capital investment of public pension funds, already permitted in several states, is suggested as warranting further consideration.

The state is also encouraged to increase spending for workforce development programs and to support a $1.5 milllion e-commerce initiative at the Florida Manufacturing Technology Center, the state's MEP affiliate.

ITFlorida.com recommended that the impact of the Digital Divide within Florida be studied to determine the severity of the problem, and additional measures be taken as necessary. These could include expanding the number of community access centers (such as libraries, schools, YMCA branches, etc), and student computer literacy measurements (on a survey basis only). A separate section discusses the unique challenges of addressing rural IT infrastructure development and use.

Other recommendations address an array of topics ranging from the state's telecommunications backbone network to computers in schools to protecting children from accessing pornography on the Internet.

Copies of the report can be downloaded from the Task Force's web site: http://www.itflorida.com