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ABS puts upgrade to ICT systems on the agenda

by Ammy Singh •
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The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) redrafted its ICT Strategy during 2013-14, to focus on enabling a digital workforce, enterprise capability, and ‘Open ABS’ in the form of web forms and online data collection, according to its 2013-14 Annual Report.

However, the 2013-14 Annual Report gave most focus to the fact that the ABS is seeking further funding to address ongoing concerns with its ageing technology systems.

The agency has received additional funds to develop a business case for a major ICT transformation program, hoping to receive further Government investment in the next financial year. This is in addition to the $56.9 million investment in ICT stipulated in the 2014-15 Budget, details of which can be found in Intermedium’s BudgetIT tool.

“The age, fragility and inflexibility of our systems continues to be a concern,” Acting ABS Chief Statistician, Jonathan Palmer said in the Annual Report. “We need to update and transform our business processes if we are to continue to provide timely, relevant and accessible statistics and services in an increasingly complex and connected digital world.”

The report noted that ICT is fundamental to the ABS achieving its mission of leading a high quality and responsive national statistical service, with effective management of information technology allowing the agency to continually improve access to statistical data and services, while maintaining security and integrity standards.

However, unstable technology systems have posed a threat to achieving this goal.

“The risk profile of the current technology environment and business continuity is increasing and the very tight fiscal environment requires sharp prioritisation to maintain existing programs with insufficient investment for transformation and future requirements,” the report states.

The agency’s Technology Services Division (TSD) has been challenged in its ability to maintain the range of technology skill sets required for support and to build new capabilities for the future, including addressing growing requirements for effective security measures in the face of sophisticated cyber security threats.

With these significant concerns on the horizon, ABS will seek further public investment to achieve its goals, with Palmer expressing optimism as to the likelihood of securing further funds in a fiscally austere environment.

The Report also noted that ‘Run That Town’, a mobile application that allows users to make planning decisions for their town using Census data, won the Australian Public Service ICT eGovernment Award for Government 2.0. 

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