$85m for digital tech in ACT Budget 2014

Summary:The Australian Capital Territory government has revealed in its latest budget it will spend almost AU$85 million on digital technology, including new online government services, hybrid cloud computing, and free public Wi-Fi.

The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) government has revealed it will spend almost AU$85 million on digital technology in its latest budget, handed down yesterday by the territory's Treasurer and Deputy Chief Minister, Andrew Barr.

While this year’s budget sees the ACT drum up a AU$332.8 million deficit, funding to technology, health, and education have remained relatively healthy, despite an expected loss of over 16,000 jobs in the territory thanks to federal government budget cuts.

Among the digital services to receive hefty funding is the ACT government's new iConnect portal, which is an online government service designed to "transform" the way individuals and businesses communicate and transact with the government. IConnect is set to receive AU$21.8 million, according to the budget papers.

The ACT is also set to spend more than AU$34 million to replace the existing revenue collection system, using new technology to make the collection of taxes "more efficient".

The budget also revealed that the territory would spend AU$2.2 million to deliver an automated accounts payable system, aimed at simplifying and speeding up payments to business.

Additionally, it will invest AU$2.4 million to further develop a new court management system in a bid to reduce court waiting times and to allow court documents to be filed electronically.

The ACT government announced it would also spend AU$16.5 million on workplace systems aimed at improving efficiency and boosting productivity across the territory's public serice operations.

This includes AU$8.6 million for a combined public and private hybrid cloud service to cut back on data storage costs, along with AU$6.2 million for improvements to the government's HR and payroll systems, and AU$1.4 million to replace almost 1000 on-street parking metres with 150 new solar-powered machines.

According to the budget papers, the "Digital Canberra" 2014-15 budget strategy initiatives will support the priorities of the Digital Canberra Action Plan, and its five top priority projects currently underway.

These include an expansive AU$4 million free public WiFi project being undertaken in partnership with iiNet, the Garema Place digital space, the innovation pitch panel digital ideas forum, digital business capacity building workshops, and technology internships.

The budget also sees investment in the ACT's Smart Schools program, which will see the upgrade of ICT infrastructure and expanded wireless access points throughout the territory's schools.

"This budget recognises the importance of the digital age and the opportunities this creates for the government to better interact with our community," said the budget documents. "The initiatives in this budget will make it easier and cheaper to do business with government, and continue to open up our public services. They will also help grow our economy and diversify our economic base.

"In this budget, our investment in new, transformation ICT projects will be AU$75 million over the next four years, building on the AU$25 million investment progressing from last year’s budget," it said.

Topics: Government : AU, Australia

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Leon covers enterprise technology and start-ups from ZDNet's Sydney newsroom.

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