ICT appears to be a secondary priority in the South Australian election, with neither parties formally releasing an ICT policy.
This is in stark contrast to Tasmania, where both parties have released detailed ICT policies, and both relevant ministers have held a face-to-face debate.
Labor has governed in South Australia since the 2002 election, first under Mike Rann and then under Jay Weatherill from 2011 onwards.
The latest Newspoll puts Labor behind the Liberals 47-53, putting the Opposition, led by Steven Marshall, on track to gain the six seats required to form Government.
With the State set to go to the ballot box on March 15, the key IT focus has been on an overhaul of the systems used at the State’s Justice Precinct.
Courts system “antiquated”
The foremost ICT frontline in the election has been the upgrade of the State’s courts precinct and associated IT systems.
Following a speech by South Australian Supreme Court Justice Chris Kourakis in September 2013, in which he lambasted the 25 year old IT system used in the states courts describing it as “antiquated”, Attorney-General John Rau promised that a proposed $500 million upgrade to the state’s justice precinct would also include a system overhaul.
In a statement, Opposition Leader Steven Marshall indicated his intention to one-up the IT pledge made by the Labor Government.
Marshall asserted that an Adelaide-based solution would not suffice, and that a Liberal Government would undertake a redevelopment of the entire State’s justice system.
“A Marshall Liberal Government will explore asking bidders to not only finance, design and construct the courts precinct building but to redevelop the IT systems used by the Courts Administration Authority”, states the release.
The Liberals are looking to add several capabilities to the finalised system including:
- Electronic record and e-filing system;
- Online case management; and
- Video conferencing and other communication technologies.
Cost of Shared Services “has exceeded savings”
A report by the South Australian Auditor-General in October 2013 revealed that, like many other Australian jurisdictions, the State Government had not accurately anticipated the cost or time required to implement a whole-of-government shared services system.
South Australia’s shared service initiative was first announced in 2006 as a project to streamline finance, payroll and ICT functions into one agency, Shared Services SA (SSSA).
With an initial budget of $60 million, Auditor-General Simon O’Neill found that the cost of the shared service implementation had already hit $84.5 million as at 30 June 2013.
According to O’Neill, “the cost of reform has [at present] exceeded savings achieved through the shared services reform process”.
Evidence before the Legislative Council Budget and Finance Committee in May 2013 revealed that not a single Government department or agency had taken up the option of allowing SSSA to manage their ICT functions, despite the original plan for all ICT services to be transferred to SSSA two years prior.
However, the Auditor-General was not entirely pessimistic about the future of Shared Services in South Australia. According to O’Neill, by 2016-17, the Shared Services reform is likely to have achieved $56.9 million of the original $130 million in estimated savings.
The Liberal Party has criticised the reform, having variously described it as “plagued with problems”, “a mess” and “a shambles” but has made no commitment to disband the scheme.
No More Big Projects
In November 2013, the South Australian Government released its new ICT strategy “SA Connected”.
The paper calls for a “digital by default” approach and a shift from “buying software to buying services”.
The paper also called for a transition away from big projects.
“We need to find smarter, more targeted ways of improving efficiency and effectiveness. Ripping out and replacing systems may seem like a straightforward and strategic response to dealing with so called ‘legacy’ systems” states the paper.
Instead, the paper indicates that the South Australian Government will allow legacy systems to atrophy whilst new systems are built in small chunks.
“Sometimes, [legacy systems] are better left alone, safely isolated via technology ‘wrappers’ that help insulate them from the rest of our technical ecosystem. Over time, data and processes can be progressively shifted to newer, more efficient platforms, an approach which essentially sees legacy systems atrophying, eventually being phased out.”
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