Despite politicians from both sides of the aisle claiming not to be ‘tech heads’, election season has brought with it a raft of ICT policies that reveal priority areas for the next three years.
Cloud technology and telecommunications appear to be at the top of the list for both the Australian Labor Party (ALP) and the Liberal-National Coalition. The major parties have also announced public sector staff cuts that are likely to impact service delivery and governance structures.
Following the election on 7 September 2013, a new government will be formed no later than 13 November. The winning party will be able to begin implementing its policies from the first day of parliament on 13 December.
The Government is currently in caretaker mode.
Cloud technology has emerged as a policy focus area in recent years, and both the ALP and the Coalition have committed to forging ahead with the adoption of cloud services by the public sector.
The ALP has released a number of policies and guidelines relating to agencies’ use of cloud, including the National Cloud Computing Strategy and the Risk Management Guide. Along with a number of other guides, these policies form a developing framework for cloud use and governance in the Australian public sector.
The Coalition has also announced its support for the take up of cloud technology, with Shadow Minister for Communications and Broadband Malcolm Turnbull discussing his plan to pursue a cloud-first strategy, in a recent interview with iTnews.
The ALP has entered into agreements with Telstra and Optus as part of its commitment to addressing mobile black spots. It plans to “use NBN infrastructure to improve mobile coverage”, according to Minister for Rural Communications Sharon Bird.
The Coalition has announced $100 million for improving access to mobile black spots. This includes an estimated $80 million for a Mobile Network Expansion Program to deliver network coverage along major transport routes and in small communities. The remaining $20 million will fund a Mobile Black Spot Programme designed to address unique coverage problems.
Both major parties are taking their different policies for a National Broadband Network to the election. The ALP has commenced its development of a fibre to the premises network, while the Coalition policy supports a shift to a fibre to the node model.
Other ICT policies
The ALP is committing to a Digital First initiative if re-elected, which will make it compulsory for all Government agencies to improve their services online. Agencies must design services that are convenient, secure and integrated with other agencies. The goal is for 80 per cent of Australians to be interacting with the Government online by 2020.
These services will soon be available on a number of devices, from smartphones to tablets, says the ALP, with agencies expected to adopt the initiative by January next year.
The Express Plus suite of mobile apps by the Department of Human Services (DHS) has seen 975,000 downloads, 15 million transactions and 100,000 customers reporting every fortnight.
Meanwhile, the Coalition has cited “the use of new technologies; digital and IT” under its plan to build advanced services in a “5-Pillar economy”.
The Australian Greens have stated their aim of making “science and technology, in particular information and communication technology, available to help maintain the viability of rural and remote communities”.
Public sector staff cuts
Both of the major parties intend to reduce public sector staff numbers in the coming years.
The ALP announced that it will not replace 1,200 public sector jobs to meet its target of saving $148 million through job cuts and greater efficiencies in IT procurement, in the May 2013 Federal Budget.
The ALP announced additional savings of $248 million through “reforming public service management structures and more efficient procurement of agency software to generate additional public service efficiencies” in July 2013, according to its Economic Statement.
Also in May, Liberal leader Tony Abbott announced plans to reduce at least 12,000 public sector jobs.
“We’ll reduce by at least 12,000, through natural attrition, the size of the Commonwealth public sector that’s now 20,000 bureaucrats bigger than in 2007,” he said in his budget reply.
Machinery of Government changes
The election is unlikely to herald any significant ministerial changes relating to ICT portfolios.
Anthony Albanese is expected to remain Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, should the ALP win the election.
It remains to be seen whether Kate Lundy will retain her role as Labor’s Minister Assisting Digital Economy, after Rudd demoted her in the last cabinet reshuffle.
Shadow Minister for Communications and Broadband Malcolm Turnbull is expected to receive the portfolio if the Coalition is elected.
For more insight into election impacts, take a look at Intermedium's Federal Election and the ICT Market Knowledge Base special.
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