DTO launches Digital Marketplace ahead of schedule

Topics: IT Services; Labour Hire; Procurement; Digital Transformation; Fed.

Suppliers will soon be able to apply for opportunities through the Federal Government’s new Digital Marketplace, after the Digital Transformation Office (DTO) launched the prototype platform well ahead of schedule.

The fully-functioning beta release, which comes five months after the DTO began the first stages of development, currently only provides access to digital specialist services, but will grow over time “to offer more services, more sellers and ways to do business.”

There are 224 suppliers listed on the marketplace’s ICT seller’s catalogue at present – all of which are also part of the new Whole-of-Government (WofG) Digital Services Professionals Panel, however, new suppliers can register their interest in joining the Marketplace in a similar way to Multi-use lists.

The DTO approached the market in March for the Digital Services Professionals Panel to support government agencies access to “expertise and resources for agile delivery.” It was established at the beginning of August and will run for a period of three years.

The marketplace currently identifies 14 capabilities considered “essential for today’s digital projects”, including: Agile Coach; Business Analyst; Delivery Manager; Developer; Digital Transformation Adviser; Ethical Hacker; Inclusive Designer; Interaction Designer; Performance and Web Analyst; Product Manager; Service Designer; Technical Lead/Architect; User Researcher; and Web Devops Engineer.

While no opportunities are currently available on the marketplace, agencies can now begin publishing briefs to find digital specialist services for projects in less than two weeks.

Government buyers are responsible for complying with the Commonwealth Procurement Rules “and any Accountable Authority Instructions related to procurement in your agency or issued by the Department of Finance”, according to procurement compliance information on the website.

The Digital Marketplace also rates the performance of buyers and sellers using analytics to allow processes and outcomes to be continually improved, and later in 2016 will encourage blue sky thinking using an open ideation platform that allows suppliers to solve digital business challenges issued by agencies.

The marketplace was first announced in December 2015, as part of the $1.1 billion National Innovation and Science Agenda (NISA), to enable government agencies to procure ICT services from suppliers using an online directory – with a particular focus on improving SME access to the government’s $5 billion yearly ICT spend. A beta release of the platform had been slated for early 2017.

The marketplace also intends to allow agencies to break up IT solutions into more manageable components. As the marketplace operates under existing Commonwealth Procurement Rules, this could allow agencies to avoid the requirement for procurements over $80,000 to be undertaken through an open tender.

It is also open to state, territory and local government buyers, but they must comply with procurement rules that apply in their jurisdiction.

While the NISA cited the United Kingdom’s Digital Marketplace as the guiding model for the marketplace, it is yet to be seen if Australia will comprehensively follow the experience of the UK and allow agencies to purchase cloud-based services through marketplace.

The UK allows approved ICT providers to supply the public sector with cloud technology, physical datacentre space for legacy systems, and personnel to help government design digital products through their marketplace.

The DTO’s Digital Marketplace is one of several initiatives that the government intends to use to overhaul procurement over the next three years.

It will be accompanied by a new taskforce within the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet to “identify existing procurement barriers and opportunities to streamline ICT procurement”, as well as “opportunities to make it easier for startups and small and medium businesses to compete for government ICT contracts”, according to the Coalition’s recent Policy for Better and More Accessible Digital Services.

Last week, the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science launched a $19 million SME pilot programme – the Business Research and Innovation Initiative – to complement the Digital Marketplace.

The programme intends to encourage innovative solutions to policy and service delivery issues through a two-step grants scheme that “helps small and medium businesses establish a track record of providing products and services to Government.”

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