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Health and Security ICT feature strongly in Federal Budget

by Paris Cowan •
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Electronic health, national security and the pool of savings generated by the Gershon Review form the key ICT foci of the 2010-11 Federal Budget, unveiled by Wayne Swan last week.

The largest single initiative will be the establishment of personally controlled electronic health (eHealth) records, which will cost a total of $466.7 million over the next two years, with $185.6 million allocated for 2010-11.

The eHealth system makes up a crucial part of the National Health and Hospitals Network reform package, and will be based upon a nationwide database containing a historical summary of the conditions, medications and vaccinations encountered by each individual who chooses to participate.  

As well as being able to view their own records online, patients will be able to give their GP or any other health professional access to their records with the click of a button, rather than relying on paper records. The personal record system will build on, but is not part of the 16 digit Health Identifier scheme that will be implemented across the country later this year.

The Department of Health and Ageing estimates that around 8% of medical errors can be attributed to poor access to patient information, and are hopeful that, “clear, quickly available information will reduce such incidents, avoid unnecessary tests and save scarce health resources.”

In 2008, the Gershon Review into government IT recommended that 50% of the savings generated by the implementation of efficiency measures should be channeled back into ICT through an ICT Business-as-Usual (BAU) fund.  The size of this fund was estimated to be $200 million per annum from 2010 onwards.

According to last night’s budget, $113 million worth of projects will be bankrolled by the fund,  a smaller contribution than was originally .

Of the 41 projects that come under BAU funding, the most significant are:

  • A $40 million contribution towards replacing the existing passport issuance system with a centralised and more secure IT infrastructure;
  • $14.7 million towards a Virtualisation project at Centrelink and an additional $8 million to establish ICT shared services;
  • $11.9 million for the Department of Finance and Deregulation to implement their Data Centre Strategy for improving data centre procurement across government;
  • An undisclosed amount for the Treasury to develop a Central Budget Management System.

The new passport system will cost a total of $100.8 million over its 6 year implementation, and forms one of the key components of the budget’s ICT - laden national security strategy.  The overhaul will include the electronic automation of each stage involved in issuing a passport, including the scanning of applications and supporting documentation, combating identity fraud, printing and biometric encoding.

“The changes will help officials to combat identity theft and ensure international border control authorities continue to regard Australian passports highly,” says the project’s lead agency, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Another $101.6 million has been allocated to the development of telecommunications interception systems within key law enforcement agencies. This money will be shared between ASIO, the Attorney General’s Department, the Australian Crime Commission and the Australian Federal Police.

ICT also features highly in the security effort at the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, who will receive $69.4 million over 4 years to develop a system which will match the fingerprints and facial images of visa applicants against the biometric databases held by Australia and its security partners, in another effort to combat international fraud.

Intermedium will provide a comprehensive analysis of the ICT opportunities contained in the 2010 Federal Budget at its annual Federal Budget Briefing, to be held at Canberra’s Hotel Realm, on the 1 June 2010.

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