Australian Government chief information officer Ann Steward defended last night's Federal Budget in a speech at the CeBIT conference this morning, saying that despite some complaints that it was light on tech spend, there had been ICT initiatives.
No doubt there's no big major huge one like the Systems for People, but there's still very strong investment
Federal Govt CIO Ann Steward
"I'm often asked whether or not there was going to be more money in the budget for ICT," Steward said. "I'd ask you to look through what was delivered last night."
The CIO said the government had a strong commitment in technology spread across a wide variety of programs: "In looking at the totality of them — very significant amounts of money."
Steward named welfare agency Centrelink as one of the places that would be seeing activity in IT, but also talked about an initiative on e-security that her Australian Government Information Office (AGIMO) would be undertaking with the help of the Attorney-General and the Defence Signals Directorate, which would see the reduction of web gateways and the building of a skills base for security needs.
The CIO said that IT would be involved in some budgeted work in support of the Child Support Agency, and that the environmental, innovation and education departments all had technology elements.
"No doubt there's no big major huge one like the Systems for People, but there's still very strong investment," she said.
The CIO also commented on the government's progress with adopting recommendations of the Gershon report after a brief introduction by Finance Minister Lindsey Tanner, who was unable to attend CeBIT because of the Budget but had recorded a brief update on the government's progress on ICT.
"We're now well advanced in implementing many aspects of the report," Tanner said.
Of the 39 enabling projects that were recommended as part of the reform agenda, Steward said that 10 have already been delivered despite being due by June 2009. Five more will be delivered by the end of June and five more required beyond that time frame were "already well advanced".
Steward said that phase one of the business as part of the ICT reform agenda had been completed, with $100 million of savings being identified from 53 agencies. Half of those savings come back for reinvestment in a fund. "It's money that can now ... be focused back into the agencies to help them improve on an ongoing basis," she said. Phase two of the business as usual would see further savings identified through to the end of the year.
She added that part of the reform would be working with other government policies such as the National Broadband Network and the government's green push.
We're now well advanced in implementing many aspects of the report
Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner
Some quick wins on the green front had come from automatically shutting down desktops and laptops after hours, implementing static screensavers and providing guidance to agencies around power and energy levels, particularly in datacentres. AGIMO was also developing a green procurement kit. The target for this was the first quarter of 2010.
AGIMO was also working on a client and supplier code of contact as well as building methodologies for agencies, to help agencies understand the maturity level that exists in an organisation before enabling them to take on new work.
On datacentres, the government had been engaging with industry, Steward said, with over 60 entities sharing their thoughts at recent industry briefings. Steward assured the industry it would play a part.
"It is important to understand ... it is not a predisposed position from government that it will build its facility, that there will only be one, nor that it will only be in one location," she said. "It's important to have obviously redundancy across our environment and understanding that we have major government agencies throughout Australia."
Steward also touched on staff and the success the government was having in recruiting via apprenticeship and cadetship programs. AGIMO had in mind that the next 10 years would see 40 per cent of its skills base retire.
Queensland ICT Minister Robert Schwarten also spoke this morning about what was happening in ICT in his state. He praised the Federal Government's plan for a National Broadband Network, and said it was perfect for Queensland, which has most of its population outside Brisbane. He also spoke of the new, more user-friendly, video-conferencing systems that needed the bandwidth. He hoped to pull savings from using them instead of buying airfares.
He touched on the new tier three datacentre in Springfield the government moved to and also shared procurement, which made sure that agencies didn't go their own way and buy incompatible systems. "It does require a little less democracy — with agencies having to be mandated as to the systems they can use," he said, but added that it made sense.