The general direction of the NSW Government's ICT program remains unchanged, with streamlining ICT procurement still a key element of the “People First” strategy. Speaking at an AIIA briefing in Sydney on 18 October, Tony Gates (Acting Government Chief Information Officer) reiterated that savings in ICT procurement would be required to fund fundamental changes to the ICT environment, and more services to clients.
He emphasised that the State had adopted a whole of government approach to dealing with citizens, as well as in relation to ICT implementation and procurement.
The “government as a single entity” approach is evident in the plan to provide a single point of contact for citizens (being rolled out progressively with completion by 2010) and other measures such as a common look and feel across all agency websites.
But it is in the area of ICT procurement that this is most evident.
Tony Gates reinforced the Government’s objective to go-to-the-market as a single buyer, and to use its leverage to get the best possible price. He used the example of a whole of government telecommunications services contract that had enabled agencies to save 30% on fixed line rates. Significant savings are also expected from the new government-wide PC panel contract.
The use of common technical specifications and whole of government contracts are expected to result in a reduction in the size of panels, and reduced costs to suppliers. He said the current panels often involve suppliers in double-bidding, required first to bid for a position on a panel, then to bid to individual agencies in order to secure business. Tony emphasised that the idea of “government as a single entity” would not undermine individual agencies, but would enable them to work more co-operatively.
Though he gave away little about specific business opportunities, he mentioned that web hosting and data centres were areas for attention in the near future. The Government is currently working to gauge its future data centre requirements. Data consolidation is expected to lead to reduced costs as well as improvements in information security. From this presentation, it is clear that the NSW Government’s policy of funding fundamental changes to its ICT environment through savings on ICT costs, remains unchanged. The task of upgrading ICT systems across NSW Government will be a very difficult task without an upfront investment of funds. This will be a great challenge for the person who takes up the position of NSW Government CIO. Announcement of a replacement for Paul Edgecumbe who resigned in May, is expected very shortly.
It was clearl from Gates' comments that the NSW Government plans to significantly reduce the number of suppliers with whom it deals. However, he recognised the need to retain sufficient suppliers to ensure that competition is maintained in the market.
Responding to questions at the conclusion of the presentation, Tony Gates made it clear that Commerce does not intend to increase the amount of information it provides to industry. Despite mentioning several times that the Government wants to make it easier for suppliers to do business with the NSW Government, Gate’s response made it clear that Commerce has no intention of providing more specific information about ICT procurement intentions, or of reporting detailed contracts information.