The Department of Human Services (DHS) is on track to consolidate its seven existing data centres down to just three before the end of the 2011-12 financial year, according its latest Annual Report.
The department’s ultimate aim is to get the total number of data centres down to two department-wide.
The five-year data centre project has thus far significantly increased the ICT capacity in the new Hume Data Centre, enabling the consolidation of seven data centres down to three.
The construction of the Hume Data Centre, which is also known as the Canberra Technology City (CTC), was completed by Technical Real Estate in 2011. The CTC also provides critical computer systems to other Government departments as well as national and global private companies.
The DHS says that the resilience of the existing interim Disaster Recovery data centre was also improved throughout 2010–11.
Prior to being formally bundled into the DHS, Centrelink signed data centre contracts with Canberra Data Centres and Verizon through the interim whole-of-government data centre panel. The interim panel was established primarily to meet the agency’s needs prior to the establishment of the final panel, which is now up and running.
DHS’s data consolidation process is in line with the Department of Finance and Deregulation’s Australian Government Data Centre Strategy 2010-2025. The strategy highlighted a growing shortage of available data centre space in Australia and ICT electricity costs of $70 million annually. The report estimated that the utilisation of modern, more efficient data centres (such as the Hume Data Centre) alone would reduce electricity costs by $35 million annually.
In June 2011, the DHS ICT Strategic Plan was officially launched, and one of its key objectives was the establishment of a solid ICT foundation for the future.
Underpinning the Plan is the ICT Integration Program, which aims to consolidate core ICT infrastructure across the whole portfolio. The major focus in 2010–11 was delivering the foundations needed to support the transformation of ICT from three agencies into one department.
The DHS was the recipient of the bulk of the ICT allocations in the 2011-12 Federal Budget. It received $373.6 million over four years for the integration of ICT infrastructure, plus $157.6 million over four years to give customers of the agency the option of managing all of their accounts online, with a ‘tell us once’ information sharing capability across the portfolio.
Information sharing has come one step closer in the past financial year with the introduction of a one logon, one password system for DHS agency online services, namely Centrelink, Medicare and Child Support. Previously, multiple accounts were required for individuals seeking to access multiple DHS services. Since January 2011, users have been directed to sign up for a single account on the australia.gov.au website, allowing users to access services across multiple agencies with the single account.
The one logon, one password system forms part of the DHS Service Delivery Reform (SDR) agenda.
With the completion of the SDR’s planning and design phase in 2010-11, the implementation stage of the project is set to commence in 2011 and will be completed in 2015.
According to its 2010-11 Annual Report, Centrelink has also delivered additional functionality and features to its Compulsory and Vulnerable Income Management system, which was initially activated on August 2010.
Among these additions was the introduction of fully automated system software, which equipped the system with the capability to switch welfare recipients on or off Income Management.
The system facilitates the controversial income management scheme, which was launched in remote Aboriginal communities as part of the Northern Territory Intervention and which will soon be extended to outer metropolitan areas such as Bankstown (NSW), Logan (QLD), Rockhampton (QLD), Playford (SA) and Greater Shepparton (VIC).
In addition to the data centres, another consolidation program was the establishment of the single gateway environment. Under the Australian Government Internet Gateway Reduction Program, the DHS has successfully incorporated Centrelink, CRS Australia and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs ICT systems under a single internet gateway, with other client agencies to also be incorporated in the future.
Of the eight lead agencies of the Reduction Program, the DHS and the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) were the only agencies who opted not to outsource their internet gateway services. Instead, these services will be managed internally within the Departments.
The DHS legally became a single government entity as of 1 July this year. Medicare and Centrelink were dissolved as separate entities and formally consolidated into the central department.