The Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) is about to go through the “greatest [ICT] transformation in its history”, according to the Department’s secretary, Simon Lewis. DVA has not set a timeline for the extensive ICT redevelopment but in a clear call for the agency to tap into innovation, Lewis said at a Senate Estimates Committee on 26 February 2014, “The longer-term plans are really going to depend on how the department improves its service delivery model in the face of declining resources.”
The Senate Estimates Committee (the Committee) heard that DVA will have to move many of its capabilities online because of an emerging generation of younger clients. In order to do this, the Department will have to completely redevelop its ageing back-office systems.
Lewis told the Committee, “We are building things for them so that they will come to us and be able to use our services online…our big challenge is what is going on behind: our business processes and how we modernise that”.
He further elaborated that DVA’s software platforms are becoming so old “that they are almost unserviceable”. As a result there will be major systems development projects required that “will take many years”.
In 2013, DVA published its Blueprint, DVA to 2020, which aims to meet the challenges of a changing DVA environment. While the Blueprint covers all Departmental activities, it also specifies a number of ICT actions. The Blueprint sets goals to:
- ‘Develop a roadmap for a provider portal to guide [our] future interactions with service delivery providers;
- Make the Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service electronic records application compatible with the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record (PCEHR); and
- Continue to develop digital channels in areas such as online, mobile applications, video conferencing and eHealth.’
Lewis noted in Senate Estimates that the Blueprint is called DVA to 2020 because he “would like to get there before 2020”.
DVA’s 2011-12 Annual Report revealed details of its ICT Strategic Plan which aims to “to meet expectations of the growing base of our contemporary veterans through transforming ICT processing systems that underpin our business”. The strategy outlines a number of major projects to be undertaken by DVA. These are:
- Increasing online services through the Choice and Maintainability in Veterans’ Services (CMVS) Program’s My Account portal;
- Re-platforming a subset of related applications and data sources using automated/tool assisted processes; and
- A Desktop Modernisation Project including refreshing desktop computers, phones, printers and video conferencing services.
DVA is also undertaking an extensive redesign of its rehabilitation and compensation services. The Annual Report indicates that it will be “a simpler, more informative and client-focused claiming process for current and former serving Defence Force members, while delivering new business processes and ICT systems for DVA staff”.
The redesigned system is currently forecast to be implemented by June 2016 via a number of stages.
DVA has outsourced a number of its ICT infrastructure management requirements to the Department of Human Services (DHS) under the shared services agreement. During 2011-12 DVA completed the transition of its mainframe, midrange server, desktop, telecommunications, help desk and secure gateway services to this agreement. The Annual Report states the total cost of doing this was $15.9 million spent over two years. The wider contract encompasses five years, from 2010 to November 2015, and is valued at $82.1 million.
DHS also delivers the whole-of-government myGov online service which was officially launched in May 2013. myGov currently provides eHealth record, Child Support, Centrelink, Medicare and DVA services to around 1.3 million users.
Lewis told Senate Estimates, “Over time, we possibly could do more with DHS. We are going to need to work out ways to minimise the duplication of functions we do in different places.”
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