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Coalition’s ICT Policy outlines major changes for agencies

by Pallavi Singhal •
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The Coalition’s ICT Policy outlines plans to “reboot whole-of-government ICT leadership”, increase the advisory role of the private sector and conduct a wide-reaching ICT audit, should it be successful in the upcoming election.

The 30-page Policy for E-Government and the Digital Economy, released today by Shadow Minister for Communications and Broadband Malcolm Turnbull, emphasises a more centralised approach to ICT, and stresses that "authority for effective whole-of-government ICT decisions and reforms ultimately must derive from the decisions and priorities of the Prime Minister and Cabinet".

It also forecasts the establishment of a new Australian Government ICT Advisory Board comprised of “private sector leaders and experts”, to aid the ICT functions of the Government, the Secretaries' ICT Governance Board (SIGB) and the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO).

A Coalition Government will also “consider proposals for the ICT Advisory Board to provide an independent external chairman from the sector to SIGB”, according to the Policy.

As part of its push for greater centralisation, the Policy criticises the ability of agencies to opt out of whole-of-government ICT arrangements. It also outlines its plans to introduce the mandatory use of shared or cloud services where agencies fail to meet minimum efficiency scale hurdles.

“Light user agencies with insufficient IT scale will move to shared or cloud solutions. Heavy user agencies with complex needs will retain autonomy but improve accountability,” it says.

Also on the cloud front, the Coalition’s Policy criticises the “notional obligation” of agencies to consider cloud options under the current model, describing the approval process and legal and security requirements as “onerous”.

Trials to relocate “critical data to a secure government cloud using automated tools” are planned to begin from 2014.

A number of transparency measures will also be implemented in the event of a Coalition win, including the creation of an ICT dashboard to publish progress on major new investments, track Government ICT performance and rank agencies on their online engagement, platform-agnostic services, customer satisfaction and availability of data sets.

An audit of ICT spending, capital expenditure and investment outcomes over the past three years across all federal agencies is to be undertaken by Finance, and an update of ICT benchmarks is also on the books.

Agencies that are heavy users of ICT will receive relative autonomy over this function at the price of providing regularly updated three-year investment plans to Finance to encourage shared investment and coordination.

“It will also shape the development of centres of specialised capability and expertise within different agencies,” according to the Policy.

“The model is for ‘heavy user’ agencies to take on service-wide responsibility and leadership in fields that fit with their activities (as the ATO has done with big data analytics).”

The Coalition’s distinction between heavy and light user agencies will shape its development of a two-tier ICT Strategy. It will also review the 2013 draft Big Data Strategy, with a final version to be released by the end of 2014.

Other ICT directions and initiatives outlined in the Policy include:

  • The requirement for almost all public-facing Government services and interactions to be available digitally by 2017, including the establishment of a Digital Service Standard and Digital Design Guide;
  • Trials of next generation tele-presence, such as in-browser Web RTC from 2014, across three highly interactive agencies; and
  • The rollout of the Coalition’s fibre-to-the-node National Broadband Network.

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