Microsoft has announced plans to offer subsidised cloud computing courses to thousands of Australian public sector workers.
The company expects to train 800 APS staff and partners over the next three months, and a total of 5,000 by 2020.
The nine module course is targeted at all skill levels and will be delivered by Microsoft training partners DDLS, New Horizons and Advanced Training in Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Perth, Brisbane and Adelaide.
The courses unsurprisingly will focus on Microsoft’s cloud platform Azure, and will cover “everything from integrating on-premise core infrastructure with Microsoft Azure, to operationalising cloud analytics solutions with Microsoft Azure” the company said.
Participants – which as well as APS staff will include government partners, solutions/systems integrators and independent software vendors – will leave the course being able to move, transform and analyse data, design and deployment skills for end-to-end solutions, and the ability to monitor and troubleshoot in the cloud. The course aligns with the government’s Secure Cloud Strategy, released by the government’s Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) in February.
“This training promises organisational agility, better delivery of services and faster insights from government data, which will help transform the Australian public sector by providing a better experience for citizens,” said Steven Worrall, managing director, Microsoft Australia.
“Migrating from legacy platforms to the cloud is not trivial, so the specialised program we have put together will equip public sector developers and system engineers with cloud-ready skills to design and build digital solutions and deliver their agency transformation initiatives,” he added.
The announcement follows criticism from former CEO of the Digital Transformation Office Paul Shetler that the government had degraded its internal IT skills with years of outsourcing.
“Years of outsourcing to contractors and integrators have progressively deskilled the public service to the point that it lacks the digital and commercial skills needed to deliver services that citizens expect,” he wrote in a submission to the Senate Committee on Digital Delivery of Government Services held last month.
“Government urgently needs to conduct capacity and capability planning for the future public service,” he added in the statement, co-authored by former senior digital advisor Jordan Hatch and former digital marketplace head Catherine Thompson.
The Community and Public Sector Union have also been calling on government to improve the digital skills of the sector, pointing to a census of APS staff taken in 2015 found that 35 per cent had received no formal digital skills training at work.
Worrall added that Microsoft’s commitment would complement efforts from the Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) and the Digital Transformation Agency to improve the digital capability of the APS.
The APSC confirmed to sister publication Computerworld Australia earlier this month that it was rolling out a “program of capability initiatives” over the next three years with the DTA “to ensure the APS is better skilled to support the digital transformation of government”.
“As part of this, APS agencies will be able to access quality assured training to develop digital specialist skills, sourced through the digital marketplace. A Digital Transformation Leadership program will be designed and delivered. The intent is to equip senior managers to lead the cultural and system change required for digital transformation across the APS,” an APSC spokesperson said.
Kevin Noonan, chief analyst for worldwide government practice at technology research firm Ovum, says Microsoft’s announcement is ambitious but welcome.
“It will be an ambitious goal to train 5000 individuals by 2020, but a necessary one. As the pressure for change continues to grow, it is simply not enough to address the transformation of our legacy systems, without concurrently addressing the legacy processes and legacy thinking,” he said.
“The need for a comprehensive approach is clear, but its practical implementation is not so easy,” he said, adding that the subsidy would be “welcome news for cash-strapped public sector agencies”.
The announcement is part of a bid to establish Azure as the go-to cloud provider in the public sector. In August the company announced two new hyperscale cloud regions in Canberra, to be located within Canberra Data Centres (CDC).
The new regions – due to launch in the first half of this year – will initially offer core Azure services, with plans to expand the offering. Microsoft expects the regions will be able to service data classified at the Protected level and for the services to eventually be added to the Australian Signals Directorate's Certified Cloud Services List.
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