Simon Finn, who was sworn in as the new Queensland Minister for ICT on Monday, will be working to a very full schedule into the foreseeable future. On top of a massive flood clean-up in his electorate of Yeerongpilly, the new minister also assumed the portfolios for Government Services and (the soon-to-be booming) building industry in a cabinet reshuffle.
Somewhere he will have to find time to oversee the $1.3 billion spent on ICT by the Queensland Government each year.
His appointment follows the resignation of Robert Schwarten, the former Minister for Public Works and ICT. Schwarten, who joined the Queensland Parliament in 1990, had held the technology portfolio since 2006, a tenure which saw him forced to deal with the Queensland Health payroll debacle, and the splitting of the state’s monolithic shared services payroll platform into three as a result.
Finn’s new position gives him oversight of the Department of Public Works, and his responsibilities will include government procurement, including electronic procurement, ICT strategic planning, management of shared service provision (excluding that of the Department of Health and the Department of Education) and building industry regulation.
His building industry responsibilities are likely to take up a good portion of his time in the coming months, as Queensland takes on the mammoth task of reconstructing homes and infrastructure lost in the 2011 floods.
So when he has the time to focus on ICT, what can the Queensland industry expect from Finn?
The MP isn’t an obvious choice for the ICT portfolio, with a background in welfare rather than technology or corporate services. In his inaugural speech to Parliament in March 2004, he told his colleagues “there is no greater role for government than reducing poverty and financial hardship”. He has a Bachelor of Arts in Social Science and served as a welfare worker prior to joining Queensland Labor.
He will assume responsibility for the implementation of the State’s five year ICT Strategic Plan originally developed under the eye of his predecessor Schwarten. This will include targeting a 15% reduction in business-as-usual ICT expenditure by 2013, developing of a unified communications strategy and identifying sourcing strategies and an implementation roadmap for IP Telephony by the end of 2011.
It is likely, considering the massive clean-up bill that the State now faces, that the new minister will also be tasked with using his authority over ICT and procurement to generate efficiencies and budget savings in addition to those already identified in the ICT Strategic Plan.
Just before his resignation, Schwarten announced that the state expected to save $10 million by signing a whole-of-government licencing agreement with Microsoft. Last year’s refresh of the ICT Strategic Plan revealed that a whole-of-government managed services arrangement was also on the cards, and more consolidated contracts could well to follow if the Queensland Government looks toward leveraging their buying power to find savings.
Finn has also forged a preliminary path into the world of Gov 2.0, describing himself as an “occasional tweeter” on his Twitter profile. Constituents and others can follow at @sifinn.