Welcome to this week’s edition of In Other Public Sector News for Wednesday 2 November.
The excitement from last week’s Budget update has not lasted long, and we can report that the only (tangentially) digital theme touched on in Peter Dutton’s Budget Reply Speech on Thursday night was a commitment to online safety: “Our laws need to be tightened and social media companies held to account for what happens on their platforms.”
Politicians and staff forced to stay in Canberra overnight made the most of it by re-scheduling the first day of Senate Estimates. We will provide a fuller summary of the digital news to emerge from the eight committees when they reconvene for a full round of hearings next week, but we note from Friday that recently arrived Greens senator David Shoebridge expressed an interest in funding for cyber hubs and National’s Senator Perrin Davey had questions for the Bureau of Meteorology on their plans to take control of the nation’s water gauges.
Importantly, but entirely unrelated to ICT spending, the BOM confirmed we are in for a wet summer, with a La Niña cycle expected to hang around “at least until January.”
This week started with Defence confirming that the personal information of both public servants and current and former ADF members has been caught up in ransomware attack on an external ICT service provider who was working on the department’s ForceNet platform. Staff were warned “to be vigilant but not alarmed.”
With the annual cost of NDIS set to climb to $50 billion by 2025-26, Minister Bill Shorten has set aside $137 million in the Budget to establish a "Fraud Fusion Taskforce." We can’t quite peg how they came up with the title, presumably it was less about Arthur Eddington, and more about not wanting it to sound like “Robodebt.”
Speaking of which, the Robodebt Royal Commission kicked off with a first round of hearings in Brisbane on Monday. The controversial scheme, officially known as the Online Compliance Initiative (OCI), ran from 2015 until November 2019 when the Morrison Government accepted that it was unlawful. We have previously speculated that the inquiry will have ramifications for the future use of data matching, automated decision making, AI and machine learning system use, regulation, and scrutiny.
STATE BY STATE
There is not exactly a torrent of digital news emerging from the states and territories at the moment (something we have been noticing for several weeks now).
The Victorian government went into caretaker mode (at 6pm on 1 November) ahead of the state election on Saturday 26 November. No major decisions will be taken (or contracts signed) “until such time that either it becomes clear that the incumbent government will be returned, or when a new government is commissioned.”
The state’s (nominal) Digital Minister Jaala Pulford announced her resignation ahead of the election after 16 years in the Upper House. She also held a long list of other portfolios: (1) employment, (2) innovation, (3) small business, (4) resources, and (5) medical research and the digital economy – but Victoria was represented at the national Digital and Data Ministers Meeting (DDMM) by its minister for government services Danny Pearson.
Anyone who has ever pulled into a parking spot and attempted to decipher the meaning of a mosaic medley of kerbside instructions will be delighted to learn that the NSW government will be launching a trial of digital ‘Smart Signage’ from 21 November. The new digital signs will provide real-time parking instructions, to avoid the confusion of both what day of the week it is, and whether a parking spot is a 4P, 2P, 1P, loading zone, work zone, bus lane, or a clearway. The trial will run for up to 18 months.
Tasmania is the first jurisdiction to release its 2023 parliamentary sitting calendar. Their House of Assembly will sit for 15 weeks, with the 2023-24 State Budget scheduled for Thursday 25 May.
Happy Halloween for readers on the other side of the international date line (or all All Souls and Saints day). A reminder that COP27 kicks off in Egypt from 6 November and the US midterms are on 8 November. In news more relevant to IT spending: inflation in the Eurozone reached a record 10.7% in October.
UK: Budget set for a Full Autumn Update Apologies to last week’s readers who were advised that the UK budget update (‘medium term fiscal plan’) would still be proceeding, as scheduled, on Monday 31 October. This was true when we went to bed, but by the time we woke up it had been pushed back by more than two weeks, to Thursday November 17, and upgraded to a full Autumn update. The new Sunak Government will be seeking to plug a fiscal shortfall in the vicinity of £35 Billion.
India: committees created to take down online content The Indian Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has conceded that self-regulation by social media companies to remove objectionable content is not working, and has amended national IT rules to establish Grievance Appellate Committees (GACs) that citizens can petition if platforms are not acting on their requests.
USA: independent UFO study panel Regular readers may have noted we at Intermedium try and stay on top of the latest news on emerging space and satellite technology and we are delighted to learn NASA has selected 16 individuals to participate in an independent study team to spend nine months examining evidence of UFO’s, or as they prefer to refer to them Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP). The panel includes former astronaut (and actual Topgun) Scott Kelly; not to be confused with his twin brother, US Senator for Arizona Mark Kelly, also a former astronaut.