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Key decisions move VicConnect Program closer to implementation

by Judy Hurditch •
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Over the last 10 years, the Victorian Government has spent $1.1 billion under its Telecommunications Purchasing and Management Strategy (TPAMS).  The replacement program, VicConnect, “will lower telecommunications costs through better pricing whilst providing a much larger range of services to Government”, a Department of State Development, Business and Innovation (DSDBI) spokesperson told Intermedium.  Two developments move the VicConnect Program closer to reality:

  • The impending decision on the VicConnect Manager shortlist; and
  • The announcement of $9.5 million in operational expenditure funding over 4 years by Minister for Technology Gordon Rich-Phillips on Friday 2 May 2014.

The intention to replace TPAMS was first announced as part of the Government’s draft ICT strategy in late 2012. The design of the Program now includes a key role for the VicConnect Manager who will be responsible for designing, implementing and managing the VicConnect services and platform.

Procurement for the role of VicConnect Manager commenced in March 2014, and it is understood that a short-list will be announced soon. 

Approximately 70 suppliers on the eServices Register with network operations capabilities were invited to apply for the role of the VicConnect Manager, and of those, 9 companies responded to the Invitation. 

The shortlisted suppliers will be issued with draft Request for Proposal documents as soon as possible and DSDBI will be working with the short-list to refine the government’s requirements before issuing a final RFP in a few months.

The establishment of a secure private data network and private government cloud will be the first priority for the new VicConnect Manager.  Answers to questions put to the Department confirm that it is expected that the Government cloud will take advantage of existing government infrastructure with third-party operated facilities being connected over time.

The DSDBI spokesperson indicated that the $9.5m in funding is to ‘allow the VicConnect Manager to obtain the specialist skills and expertise to develop and establish new commercial cloud-based arrangements for services over the next four years’.  The funding breaks down as follows:

  • $3.5m in 2014-15;
  • $2.3m in 2015-16;
  • $1.7m in 2016-17 and
  • $2m in 2017-18.

The funding is also intended to create a government ICT marketplace replacing and extending the existing Telecommunications Purchasing and Management Strategy (TPAMS). 

“TPAMS was established over ten years ago. Since then, the telecommunications and broader ICT industry has changed dramatically, as has the size and nature of government demand for ICT,” Minister Rich-Phillips said when announcing the funding on 2 May 2014.

“The strategic aim of the VicConnect Program is to reduce the cost of telecommunications services and allow Victorian Government departments to access new, inexpensive and powerful technologies – including cloud services, mobility devices, and other ICT services – that will enhance government service delivery.

VicConnect will create a marketplace for technology services by providing access for multiple suppliers to government ICT spending. This will increase the choice of services available to departments, increase competition between suppliers and drive innovation and better value for money outcomes for government,” the Minister added. 

In this context, the DSDBI spokesperson said that the VicConnect Manager will ‘progressively reform and update existing contracts into new commercial arrangements’.

The current TPAMS arrangement consists of three categories:

  1. Telecommunications Carriage Services – provided by Optus and Telstra;
  2. Victorian Office Telephony Services – provided by NEC; and
  3. The Whole-of-Victorian Government Internet Services panel – made up of EFTel, Netspace, Optus and Pacnet.

TPAMS has two ‘Evergreen Contracts’ for Telecommunications Carriage Services. According to the DSDBI spokesperson, “Evergreen contracts don't have an expiry date by definition. They run until terminated by either party. The primary benefit of such arrangements in the VicConnect context is that they can be continued as long as needed while new arrangements are established under VicConnect.

DSDBI is expecting that VicConnect will, over time, become the primary way that Victorian Government agencies will access telecommunications, cloud, and related ICT services.”

VicConnect will offer competitive arrangements for a wide range of ICT services and that services will be introduced through VicConnect based on the needs and priorities of agencies.

“It is expected that services such as data carriage, unified communications and other cloud services will be among the first services delivered through VicConnect. Services will only be delivered through VicConnect if business case analysis clearly demonstrates benefits for government,” the department advised.

It would appear that based on the procurement timeline for the VicConnect Manager the earliest any of the new VicConnect Program arrangements could start to appear in the marketplace would be in the first quarter of 2015. When queried about this timeframe, the spokesperson for the Department said that “the design and deployment of VicConnect will be determined in consultation with the successful vendor appointed as the VicConnect Manager”.

The spokesperson also affirmed that when the VicConnect Manager role is in place, DSDBI will continue to establish and manage procurement arrangements for telecommunications and other ICT services. The role of the VicConnect Manager will be “to act on the Government's behalf to connect up telecommunications and cloud service providers to agencies. The VicConnect Manager will also provide network and security operations services to Government and will also be responsible for managing core network services”, the DSDBI spokesperson said 

The Victorian Government will work with the VicConnect Manager to establish a technically sound VicConnect Platform, but the government will not directly deliver technology services, it will leave that to the organisation performing the role of the VicConnect Manager.  He also said that VicConnect Manager will not be a 'broker' of ICT services for Government. “While the VicConnect Manager will offer a range of connectivity services to Government agencies, it will not be responsible for sourcing ICT services or managing ICT procurement on behalf of government. The ultimate decision as to which suppliers are awarded contracts under the VicConnect Program will be made by the government”, he added.

When asked how the spheres of responsibility of CenITex and the VicConnect Manager could best be described relative to each other, the DSDBI spokesperson responded that “DSDBI will be responsible for managing both the outsourcing of CenITex's services and the establishment of VicConnect. The two projects will be closely coordinated”.

Related Articles:

Victorian Budget funds major ICT procurement initiatives

CenITex EOI reveals extent of outsourcing overhaul

VicConnect to replace Victoria’s ageing telco buying suite

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