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2014: Federal Government ICT Report Card

by Ammy Singh •
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With 2014 drawing to a close, Intermedium  tracks the progress of the Coalition Government’s ICT agenda, stacking up promises against the implementation of these projects.

The key trends in government ICT across this year have proven to be:

  • Digital government;
  • Cloud (SaaS, PaaS, IaaS, specialist services);
  • Analytics; and
  • Mobility and apps.

Of the 14 promises laid out in the Coalition’s Policy for eGovernment and the Digital Economy, one milestone has been achieved, seven are reported in progress, while a further six projects are yet to be commenced.

The headway into completing these promises also comes after the National Commission of Audit’s (NCoA) recommendations which, if implemented, suggested that ICT projects would be sought out in the following areas:

  • Cloud-based infrastructure, platform or software services;
  • Content management systems;
  • Document automation systems;
  • Workflow/case management systems;
  • Storage solutions; and
  • Data analytics (software, hardware and integration) solutions.

According to Intermedium’s Budget IT, the 2014-15 Budget contained 81 new initiatives with either an implicit or an explicit ICT funding component, totalling $840.6 million (both CapEx and OpEx). Of this $349.52 million was to be spent in 2014-15.

The funding represents a significant increase on the previous Labor Government’s last Budget, both in terms of the number of initiatives and the amount of initiative funding over the forward estimates, and to be allocated in 2014-15. However, a good proportion of the increased 2014-15 Budget funding is in implicit ICT spend at the Department of Human Services to support policy and program changes which are now held up in the Senate.

Progress on each of the Government’s ICT promises is detailed below.

Cloud-first as a default: Achieved

The Government aimed to require the use of shared or cloud services where minimum efficient scale hurdles were not met, setting a default expectation that private or public cloud solutions will be used whenever efficient scale is not achieved at agency level.

This cloud-first approach was implemented in the October 2014 Australian Government Cloud Computing Policy.

Broadband upgrades: In progress

The Coalition promised to upgrade broadband for households and businesses with poor connectivity as soon as practicable to ensure all Australians are able to participate in the digital economy.

Progress in achieving this goal is underway, with the Coalition’s rollout of the National Broadband Network (NBN) expected to be completed by 2019. The Government delivered a Statement of Expectations to NBN Co on 8 April 2014 that reflected NBN Co’s December 2013 Strategic Review recommendations.

Digital documents: In progress

The eGovernment Policy target is for all correspondence, documents and forms to be available in digital form, in addition to hard-copy, by 2017.

The current status is that digital correspondence is now available through the myGov mailbox and the Australia Post Digital Mailbox.  A trial to enable government mail in myGov to automatically forward to Digital Mailbox with wasannounced in August 2014, allowing users to collate their government and personal electronic correspondence in a single place. 

myGov currently has around 5 million registered users and is accessed by over 150,000 users each week, according to Paul Fletcher, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Communications and ex-Optus Director, Corporate and Regulatory Affairs.

Putting government interactions online: In progress

The eGovernment Policy target is for Federal Government interactions that occur more than 50,000 times per year are to be put online by 2017. It is hard to assess whether this is soft target or not, given the 150,000 users per week on myGov.  However, it was found that between December 2012 and May 2013, only 8.95 million people accessed government services (federal, state or local) online.

The NCoA stated that only 50% of Department of Human Services (DHS) services were online in 2012.  It also stated that the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) issues 10 million paper notices per annum.

The establishment of a Digital Service Standard and Digital Design Guide, modelled on the UK equivalents, to ensure consistent design of current and future services has yet to occur.

Digital inboxes: In progress

The Government aims to provide individuals and entities with a unique digital ‘inbox’ on an opt-in basis, acting as a secure and permanent contact point for communication with government. This service will build on the myGov inbox with the added flexibility of using it in a ‘redirect mode’ or integrating it with existing and emerging commercial products. This project will be delivered utilising existing ICT resources.

Trials to link myGov inboxes to the Australia Post MyPost Digital Mailbox have begun. Additionally, the Secretaries’ ICT Government Board (SIGB) “noted the establishment of an Inter-Departmental Committee (IDC) to review options for the provision of a digital mail capability for secure transactions between individuals and businesses with government as outlined in the policy” at its December 2013 meeting.

Finalising Big Data position: In progress

Plans to review the policy principles and actions in the 2013 Big Data Strategy, and finalising a position on this, were expected to be completed by the end of 2014.  However, with the end of December 2014 fast approaching, an update in early 2015 appears more likely.

ICT audit: In progress

The Coalition indicated it would request the Department of Finance and AGIMO to undertake an audit across all agencies, covering spending, CapEx, and outcomes generated by investment in ICT over the past three years.

An ICT audit is currently underway, according to SIGB’s May 2014 communique. In November, Finance reconfirmed to Intermedium the planned released of the audit by the end of 2014.

Relocating data to a government cloud: In progress

Among the Coalition Government’s plans is trialling the relocation of critical data to a secure government cloud using automated tools from 2014. Further details on the trial will be announced throughout its development, according to an October 2014 Resource Management Guide relating to the Cloud Computing Policy.

Increased ICT transparency: no publicly reported progress

The eGovernment Policy included a promise to increase ICT transparency with ongoing periodic collection, reporting and analysis of data on costs, assets, performance, utilisation and availability. This included a plan to update the benchmarks and analytics introduced after the Gershon review, in order to increase the value of this data to AGIMO, SIGB, other decision makers and taxpayers.

Government ICT dashboard: no publicly reported progress

The creation of a dashboard publishing key metrics on Government ICT performance and progress on major new investments has not progressed.

NDES update: no publicly reported progress

There has been no public domain information on the progress of plans to update the National Digital Economy Strategy (NDES) during the Coalition’s first term in government.

Heavy user autonomy: no publicly reported progress

This goal will see heavy users allowed autonomy over ICT operations, in return for exercising increased accountability and transparency, including for major projects these users initiate. No three-year investment plans have emerged to date in the public domain.

External reviews of large ICT projects: no publicly reported progress

No public domain information on the progress of plans to provide ongoing external accountability for large ICT projects, via external reviews every six months until projects are fully implemented has been provided.

Australian Government ICT Advisory Board: no publicly reported progress

The Coalition Government intends to create an Australian Government ICT Advisory Board, to provide the Government with access to senior private sector ICT expertise.

No public domain information on the progress of plans on this promise has been made and the last public statement on this, in the notes of the December 2013 meeting of SIGB simply stated that SIGB “discussed implementation of the eGovernment policy, including the establishment of an ICT Advisory Board to provide private sector ICT advice to government.”

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