The lead up to the March NSW state election saw a raft of ICT-related commitments made by Premier Mike Baird and the respective Ministers for the Health, Road & Freight, Policing, Finance & Services and Education portfolios.
One month after Baird’s re-election, it is now anticipated that these portfolios will reap the most benefits in the area of ICT investment in the state’s 2015-16 Budget, expected to be released on Tuesday 23 June 2015.
Health was the by far the biggest winner, with Jillian Skinner, Minister for Health and Minister for Medical Research,announcing a $300 million investment package for eHealth initiatives over the course of the next four years. This comes even as eHealth measures continue to prove to be costly and challenging to implement.
“To deliver an efficient, integrated health system, we must adopt the latest technologies”, said Skinner.
Along with the $239.6 million of funding not attributed to specific projects at the time of the announcement, the new eHealth initiatives will consist of:
- $48 million for rural eHealth infrastructure and clinical porgrams;
- $4.9 million to roll out HealtheNet – a network connecting hospitals, GPS and community health providers – to eleven additional districts;
- $4 million to deploy 100 additional telehealth sites across regional Australia;
- $3.5 million for hospital-in-the-home services in rural areas, providing community nurses with laptops and mobile devices, and patients with devices for in-home monitoring; and
- the development of a NSW Health eHealth Strategic Plan: Enabling eHealth 2021 to provide direction for future ICT investment.
Skinner also committed to upgrading the Electronic Medical Records system – which has not yet been fully deployed – with voice recognition capabilities. According to the minister, “the days of paper records being lugged around and physically transferred from treating doctor to doctor will soon be behind us”.
In addition to the promised Health spending, the Baird Government‘s re-election also came with commitments to investment in youth and senior education.
Mike Baird and Adrian Piccoli, the Minister for Education, jointly announced a scholarship scheme to boost youth employment, offering 25,000 young people a cash incentive of $1000 to study technology-based courses.
“Training benefits students but it is also vital to the NSW economy. We need more skilled people studying courses like information technology, IT systems networking, electronics and communications engineering and other STEM related disciplines”, said Baird.
Funding was also promised to the existing Tech Savvy Senior program, which provides low cost or free training for elderly users of computers, tablets and smart phones. Funding would be doubled to $2 million, enabling 3,500 more places per year across 30 community colleges and libraries. A Tech Savvy Seniors Regional Road Show would also be staged across 40 regional centres.
Policing will benefit from an investment of $100 million over four years that will go toward the Policing For Tomorrow fund, supplying additional body worn cameras, tablet devices, mobile fingerprint scanners, and TruNarc narcotics scanning tools, and establishing a Real Time Intelligence Response Centre to target public-place shootings.
The Premier, along with former Minister for Police and Emergency Services Stuart Ayres, said the new initiative would “future-proof the NSW Police Force to ensure they have access to the latest and most innovative ways to respond to crime”.
Additionally, $10 million was put towards the establishment of the Community Safety Fund to create safe public areas and address local crime. This could include “monitored CCTV, campaigns to reduce stealing from motor vehicles, funding for improvements such as fencing or lighting and initiatives to reduce anti-social behavior”.
Road & Freight:
Investment in Internet of Things (IoT) technology will be provided to upgrade the M4 motorway to manage congestion in real time, and is expected to cut travel times during peak hour by up to 15 minutes.
“Smart motorways will be the future of Sydney’s road network – the 100,000 motorists who use the M4 every day will be the first to benefit from this congestion-busting technology in NSW”, said Baird in a media release.
It will include technologies such as:
- Traffic sensors to detect changes in traffic flow in real time;
- new electronic signs to warn of traffic conditions; and
- automated lane use management gantries, which would open and close in response to incidents.
Finance & Services:
Minister for Finance, Services and Property Dominic Perrottet has unveiled plans to ensure that NSW government agencies will be able to support digital payment methods, including PayPal and Apple Pay. The minister also cited MasterPass and VisaCheckout as examples of digital payment types warranting consideration over the next twelve months.
“While consumers and businesses are embracing newer forms of payment, many public sector agencies are stuck in the past, limited by old infrastructure”, said the minister.
Additionally, citizens will be offered the ability to choose whether to have a range of common licence types, including NSW photo cards and drivers’ licences, issued in a digital or physical format, in accordance with the NSW Government ICT Strategy .
“This commitment is the first of its kind in Australia, and we will ensure our digital licensing system is at the cutting edge of international best practice”, the minister said in a media release.
This will be complemented by the expansion of the ServiceNSW program, which will see 30 more digital stores pop up in key customer hubs.