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Australian government to invest AU$350 million over 3 years to modernise, transform and enhance productivity of the Public Service

In the Budget for the year 2017-18, the Australian government revealed an ambitious agenda for digital transformation within the public sector.

From a Modernisation Fund of AU$500 million, the government will invest AU$350 million over a period of three years from 2017-18 to modernise, transform and enhance the productivity of the Australian Public Service (APS).

This includes investments to advance the collection and use of government data for the development of evidence-based policy, including people-centred policy design and the  development of whole-of-government platforms by the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) to enable greater collaboration across the APS.

AnotherAU$129.6 million from the fund will be invested over three years from 2017-18 in a number of agencies to support their transition to more modern and sustainable operating models, including upgrading of outdated ICT systems and other assets.

This will also support improvements in maintaining the integrity of heritage assets such as the National Maritime Museum, National Film and Sound Archive and Old Parliament House, adding to the AU$16.4 million from the Modernisation Fund for the National Library of Australia to expand its digitisation work, and AU$4 million to the Australian War Memorial, announced during the 2016-17 Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook.

Consolidation of agency systems

An additional 60 agencies will be supported, through AU$123.9 million of the 350, in consolidating their core transactional corporate services (financial and human resources) and associated back office information technology (IT) systems into one of six corporate service hubs. In addition, around 74% of existing grant programs will be delivered via the Community and Business Grants Hubs on behalf of nine agencies by june 2019.

The Budget documents state that funding will also be provided to drive further uptake of Behavioural Economics, to improve the development of evidence-based policy, and to support digital skill training for public sector staff.

Better use of data

AU$161.5 million has been assigned to improve policy, programs and service delivery through the better use of government data to assist in delivering a more productive economy.

This includes funding for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) to expand the role of Data61, Australia’s leading largest data science research organisation. This is expected to deliver a data integration platform that supports law enforcement and regulatory agencies helping them better detect, prevent and disrupt illicit activities within Australia and overseas. Geoscience Australia will deliver a platform that provides insights from satellite data into the changing Australian landscape and coastline. This will benefit industry, researchers and the Australian community.

DTA agenda for 2017-18

In October 2016, the erstwhile Digital Transformation Office was renamed as the DTA and its functions redefined. Several ICT policy and ICT procurement functions were transferred from the Department of Finance to the DTA. The 2017-18 agenda for  the DTA is laid out in the Budget Statement of the Portfolio of Prime Minister and Cabinet.  

DTA will develop policies and strategies to further drive the digital transformation across government, including new approaches to ICT procurement, the Australian government’s web presence through GOV.AU, the use of newer technologies and project delivery.

DTA expertise will be embedded into agency projects and agencies will be helped to meet the digital service standard with public reporting against key performance indicators on a performance dashboard. In February it was announced that the dashboard had undergone a beta assessment.

The total resourcing for the DTA for 2017-18 stood at AU$214.5 million, compared to AU$77.4 million during the previous year. Staffing is estimated to increase from 93 to 200.

The government is allocating AU$64.6 million from the Modernisation Fund to the DTA as part of its effort to provide streamlined and improved access to government services.

This includes the development of ‘Tell Us Once’ systems and a Federated Data Exchange platform by the DTA. Tell Us Once’ will reduce the need to report similar information to multiple agencies; allowing users to choose how they receive notifications from government; and standardising agency access to the Reserve Bank of Australia payment systems.

The Federated Data Exchange platform is expected to remove the need to build and maintain bespoke point-to-point data exchanges between agencies, while still complying with privacy and security requirements.

In other initiatives, barriers will be eliminated to make it easier for businesses of all sizes to access government ICT contracts. The Digital Marketplace is an agile development in Beta. In February, the Marketplace was expanded, adding new areas including cybersecurity, data science, content and publishing, marketing, communications and engagement, as well as support and operations.

DTA will also provide expert advice to the government on all significant ICT and digital investments to ensure they are aligned with the digital transformation agenda and use best practice design and delivery methodologies. A new investment management office was set up within the DTA in Februrary to review significant government technology projects, with a deadline of mid-2017. The review covers all non-corporate Commonwealth entities and all active projects over AU$10 million in value or those that engage a large number of Australians.

The government will provide AU$22.7 million in 2017-18 to complete the next stage of development for GovPass.

GovPass aims to provide a trusted digital identity framework for use by people needing to provide secure proof of identity to use government services online. GovPass will link to existing document and facial verification services to establish Identity. In the future its use is expected to be expanded to businesses.

The DTA will establish the Cyber Security Advisory Office (CSAO), with funding of AU$10.7 million over four years from 2017-18 onwards. The CSAO will work with agencies to ensure they are appropriately managing the risks of cyber and other digital vulnerabilities on digital services.

Sources:

Agency Resourcing Budget Paper No. 4, 2017-18

Budget Measures Budget Paper No. 2 2017-18

Budget Statement of the Portfolio of Prime Minister and Cabinet

Featured image: JJ Harrison (jjharrison89@facebook.com)CC BY-SA 3.0

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