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Federal agencies must learn to share, says draft whole-of-gov ICT strategy

by Paris Cowan •
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The Federal Government will see an increase in the kind of portfolio integration and information sharing currently practiced at the Department of Human Services, if the recently released Draft Strategic Vision for the Commonwealth’s ICT use comes to fruition.

The draft strategic vision, released for feedback over the AGIMO Blog , focuses its emphasis on generating the greatest possible value from ICT investments by avoiding duplication and wasteful procurement through improved inter-agency communication.

The draft plan proposes that a “portfolio approach to strategic ICT investments” be implemented from 2012 onwards.

In December 2009, it was announced that the Human Services portfolio, which includes Centrelink and Medicare, would integrate their functions, including the transferral of the ICT infrastructure of the involved agencies to a single shared services unit. The Department of Veteran’s Affairs also entered the arrangement as a client agency.

The Department of Human Services (DHS) integration overcame one of its last obstacles this month, when a senate inquiry convened to address privacy concerns gave the DHS the green light to complete its Service Delivery Reform Program.

It is likely that the Human Services case study could become a model for other Federal agencies if a government-wide push to greater portfolio ICT consolidation eventuates.

In addition to sharing existing capability, there will likely to be pressure to make new procurements open to multi-agency access.

“Greater transparency of agency ICT activities and plans will lead to better strategic investments, focussing on, in order of preference, re-using existing capability, modifying existing capability or buying or building new capability for use across multiple agencies,” says the draft plan.

Intermedium’s tender database for the current financial year-to-date shows that 20 percent of ICT tenders released so far on Austender stipulate that the product or service is for multi-agency access (MAA).

If the final strategic vision shares this focus, which it probably will, then tender submissions which highlight ways to achieve reuse and sharing could be placed at an advantage in the Federal Government market.

Also bearing likeness to the DHS integration is a push towards a “tell-us-once” client information sharing functionality across the government, as part of a broader objective to “deliver better services”.

“This provides people the option – entirely within the control of citizens – to access government services through a secure logon to government, and joined up government services across Australian, State and Territory, and Local government jurisdictions,” says the draft plan.

Apart from the DHS, which is already in the process of implementing client data sharing amongst comprising agencies, such a move would most likely to affect those agencies dealing with the largest repositories of personal and company information, such as Australian Tax Office (ATO), the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC).

Development of “tell-us-once” capability has been slated for 2012 onwards in the ICT Vision’s implementation road map.

Unsurprisingly, as the date for a promised return to surplus comes nearer and nearer, pressure to generate efficiency savings is mirrored in the draft ICT vision.

“Continued fiscal restraint will place pressure on the Government, at least in the medium term, to make better use of ICT capability and investments,” says the plan.

While the push toward capability re-use and multi-agency access referred to above forms one of the strategies for achieving this, the plan also outlines ambitions to reduce customisation and integration expenditure through the preferencing of commodity hardware, off-the-shelf software, virtualisation and cloud computing.  It also proposes the continuation of the Australian Government Information Management Office’s (AGIMO) coordinated procurement strategy, which it says has delivered agencies savings of up to 30 percent on previous costs.

Implementation of the final ICT strategy will come under the supervision of the SIGB, with a dedicated AGIMO office to be established to assist in the process.

The final ICT strategy will be applicable to all FMA Act agencies, with the exception of the Defence and intelligence agencies, which will have the freedom to implement only those elements of the plan which are relevant to their unique conditions.

Whole-of-Government ICT Strategies across other Jurisdictions

In NSW, the state’s People First ICT plan was launched by then CIO Paul Edgecumbe in 2006, and reached its expiry at the end of 2010 under CIO Emmanuel Rodriguez. In between it experienced a significant pruning back.   Its focus had been on a number of initiatives, but the theme of eliminating duplication, reducing back office overheads and freeing up funds to apply to frontline, client facing staff was the constant theme.  Many of the savings targets identified in the plan were to be achieved through the procurement leverage generated by whole of government contracts.

Prior to the change of government, now Minister for Finance and Services Greg Pearce said that the Coalition Government would develop a new whole-of-government ICT strategy.

He said the Liberal/Nationals vision for ICT included contributing to more efficient government, improvement in return on investment, environmental objectives encouraging greater agency collaboration.

He also said he would like those in charge of ICT look beyond the Data Centre Strategy outlined in the previous government’s plan.

“In particular I’d like them to identify how the NSW Government might build government capability using a cloud computing model,” Pearce said.

In Queensland, Toward Q2 Through ICT, was launched in 2009 and focuses on leveraging ICT to produce accessible, effective and efficient government and to nurture strong industry partnerships.

The five year plan, which was refreshed in 2010, contained 84 actions, 33 of which were on track to be completed by the end of 2010.

Of the 84 actions, 20 were savings measures, such as the establishment of coordinated procurement arrangements.

The 2010 refresh also added a clause mandating that industry consultation take place in the lead up to all ICT projects worth more than $2 million.

In Victoria, there is as yet no discreet whole-of-government ICT strategy in place, however the establishment of CenITex as a single ICT shared services provider in 2008 goes a long way to achieving equivalent outcomes to the aforementioned plans.

CenITex provides the Victorian Government with:

  • one secure core desktop for all customers;
  • one trusted network;
  • one common directory (login process);
  • one WoVG hosting environment;
  • one WoVG Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Service Centre and Helpdesk.


Related Articles

Senate Committee gives DHS service integration the green light

DHS ICT consolidation plans made public

DHS and DVA get ball rolling on Shared Service


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