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Sterrenberg unveils full size of the Human Services ICT purse

by Paris Cowan •
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Department of Human Services (DHS) Chief Information Officer, Gary Sterrenberg, has offered up some rare insights into the annual ICT Budget of one the Federal Government’s top technology purchasers.

Sterrenberg told the Senate Estimates Committee last week that the Department’s annual expenditure on ICT is more than $830 million spread across operating, capital and project operating categories, including staffing expenses.

“The first [category] is operating costs, and that is $545.1 million,” he said.

“Of those operating costs there are three subcategories. The first is BAU, which is salary and wages for the ongoing $220.2 million. The running costs, which is third-party vendors—licences and maintenance to third parties—is $211.1 million.

“And telecommunications is $113.8 million.

“The second major category is capital. We have a capital purchase, which is $71.4 million and then what we refer to as project internal development software, which is people working on projects. That is $76.5 million.

“The final category is the project operating costs of $139.4 million, giving a total of $832.4 million,” he said.

According to Intermedium’s contract database, the DHS has published $1.7 billion worth of ICT contracts with a start date falling within the 2011-12 financial year – including $700 million for the (non-IBNC) component of its Managed Telecommunications Services deal with Telstra over its 8.5 year permissible term.

The discrepancy reflects the fact that a number of contracts signed by the agency in 2011-12 run for a number of years, and suggests that the DHS ICT contract total for 2012-13 is likely to see a downturn in the absence of a major contract signing.

Despite having one of the largest ICT Budgets in Canberra, however, the DHS has recently rolled out a pair of popular client-facing mobile apps on a shoestring budget.

The Department launched its Express Plus Students app for Youth Allowance recipients in August this year, and its Express Plus Job Seekers app for Newstart recipients in October.

“We have largely done them in house,” explained Ben Rimmer from the DHS’s Service Delivery Transformation and Performance division.

“From a technology side, we have been using the existing web based services, so the cost to produce the apps was quite low,” added Sterrenberg.

More than 65,000 students and 3,000 job seekers have downloaded the apps in both iOS and Android formats, and a very pleased Human Services Minister Kim Carr says that work is currently underway to expand the suite.

"My department is now working on apps for other customer groups. The successful development of mobile technology will change the way we offer services in the future, making it easier for people to deal with us, as well as reducing pressure on our service network," he said in a statement.

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