A new report has urged the Australian government to work more closely with India in the development of information technology products.
The report by Australia's overseas export organisation Austrade and accountants Ernst & Young said Australia and India should pool resources for mutual gain, such as selling IT wares in other Asian markets.
Australia's IT and communications sector earned A$4.9 billion (Pounds 1.8 billion) in export revenue in 1997-98, more than that generated by traditional exports such as iron ore, wool and wheat.
But India's IT industry is now worth A$8.5 billion a year and the country is said to have the second largest scientific workforce in the world after the US.
The report said scientists in India and Australia both spoke English and occupied time zones that were better for dealing with the rest of Asia than those of Europe or America.
The report said that since the 1980s, Indian universities had co-operated to provide high-quality IT courses whose graduates could compete with anyone from Europe, the US or Australasia. This collaboration had been a
startling success and, despite an initial brain drain of PhDs, many Indians had returned and contributed to the growth of local companies.
Australia's ties with India are traditionally good, and there is also a strong Indian student community studying IT in Australia. Last year, more than 3,000 Indian students were studying in Australian universities.
The report said the growth in this area would result in long-term ties between the technology industries of the two countries. Australia is also a job market for Indians who graduated from the country's colleges.
"A lot of the technology skills that are evolving there, which in the past would have probably been snapped up by the US, mean Indians are now looking more to Australia as a place where they can have just as good opportunities in building their skills. Australia is beginning to be recognised as a leader in technology as well," an Ernst & Young spokesman said.
India was one of the only countries in the region to record positive growth in its IT sector immediately following the 1997 currency crisis in Asia.
Computer sales in India are growing by more than 30 per cent a year and there are now several million internet users across the country.