The government has set aside millions of dollars in funding for legacy ICT modernisation projects in an effort to boost data sharing across agencies and improve public access to services.
As part of its Public Service Modernisation Fund the Government will invest $129.6 million over three years from 2017-18 in a number of agencies and heritage archives, to “support their transition to more modern and sustainable operating models” by upgrading outdated systems.
“This measure enables agencies to upgrade outdated ICT systems and other assets,” Budget documents released last night, state.
The modernisation fund will accelerate the transition of agencies to shared corporate services arrangements, the government said. An additional 60 agencies will be able to consolidate their core transactional corporate services – such as financial and human resources – and back office information technology systems into one of six corporate service hubs.
“It’s good to see a commitment to legacy modernisation,” Dean Lacheca, Gartner's public sector research director, told CIO Australia.
A recent Gartner global survey of government sector CIOs found that 13 per cent of the technology budgets of public sector entities will go towards legacy modernisation this year.
“Governments need to pay down technical debt by accelerating modernisation initiatives to allow them to explore alternative sourcing options and to focus on innovation and meeting citizen expectations. Application rationalisation is part of this, so the Government’s commitment in the budget to platform consolidation and a shared services model should help accelerate the transition to digital government for many of the smaller agencies,” Lacheca added.
The Budget also included $350 million to be spent over three years from 2017-18 in projects to “modernise, transform and enhance the productivity” of agencies.
The “transformation and innovation stream” of the Public Service Modernisation Fund provides for investments to “advance the collection and use of government data in the development of evidence-based policy, including people-centred policy design”.
The measure enhances service delivery through the Digital Transformation Agency’s development of whole-of-government platforms, the government said, to enable greater collaboration across the public service.
As part of the effort, the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) will produce ‘Tell Us Once’ systems, to reduce the need for individuals to report similar information to multiple agencies. The DTA has also been tasked with developing a Federated Data Exchange platform to remove the need to build and maintain bespoke point‑to‑point data exchanges between agencies, while still complying with privacy and security requirements.
Provision for this funding has already been included in the forward estimates.
“The focus on shared whole-of-government platforms, the attempt to breakdown some of the data silos that plague governments around the world through the ‘Tell Us Once’ style of system and federated identity management framework are all good steps towards digital government maturity by the Australia Government. The challenge now is to deliver against these commitments,” Gartner's Lacheca said.
Data analytics drive
The government will also set up a new body, the Data Integration Partnership of Australia, to “transform the analysis of public data to improve policy and program implementation and expenditure”.
The aim is to integrate data from across government and provide a single entry point to “reduce duplication, encourage efficiency, and lead to long‑term reform in data collection and use”.
“Through enhanced data analytics, the Government will be able to design better‑targeted and more effective services in education, social services, health and aged care,” budget documents state.
The DTA will continue work to lead whole-of-government IT and the digital transformation of services. The agency’s new Digital Investment Management Office oversees all significant government ICT investment projects, and the Digital Marketplace, is simplifying digital procurement, the government said.
Work on Govpass, which aims to make the process of proving to government services who you are online simpler and more secure, will continue.
ICT industry peak body the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA), welcomed the government’s digital and data focus.
“The government is taking a lead in Australia’s digital transformation through greater investment in ICT infrastructure and capability. These are smart investments that will enable the adoption of future technologies as government services evolve,” said AIIA chief executive officer Rob Fitzpatrick.
An AIIA survey published in February suggests the investments have the support of Australians, with 99 per cent saying they believed they would benefit from government using the latest technology for service delivery.
“ICT spending should be viewed as an investment towards modernising government and improving services for Australians over the long-term, rather than a one-off line item. The ICT sector welcomes this significant investment,” Fitzpatrick added.
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