Human Services Minister Chris Bowen has announced a reform of the human services portfolio which includes consolidating the IT function of its constituent agencies.
Centrelink, Medicare and other smaller organisations
will become part of the Human Services department, bringing
together their back office functions, including IT, by the end of
next year. Centrelink CIO John Wadeson
will head up the new IT force which will take shape by the end of 2010. The services will be
co-located with 20 offices to be moved together by the end of next year, and 40 offices by 2012.
The reforms would save money, Bowen said, which Human Services
intended to plough back into its service delivery. Any staff
reduction would come from natural attrition he said, but stressed
that the reforms were mainly about moving staff from basic
tasks to service delivery rather than retrenching them. A
Centrelink spokesperson said that they understood this would also
hold for IT staff.
Bowen also heralded a technology upgrade to enable easier
transfer of information between the agencies so that customers will
have the option to pre-fill forms.
"You shouldn't have to remember multiple usernames and passwords
for multiple websites. The upgrade of online services is in
response to an ever-increasing demand for this option," he said.
"Technology is revolutionising how services can be — and are —
delivered but, without broader changes, it can actually exacerbate
the confusion and information overload," he said.
Human Services hoped to make all forms online compatible by
2013, according to Bowen. Currently Human Services supports over 17
million online transactions a year. However, he said he wouldn't
force people to use the online services.
The minister's office has not yet answered queries as to how
much the agency intended to spend on the upgrade, or save from the consolidation. It
has also not yet indicated if it would hire any external help.
The easy flow of information did not mean that the government
would have a master file on the department's customers, Bowen said.
"We will not house an individual's personal sensitive
information in one place, vesting all control with one body or one
card. This is not an Australia Card and we will not
be merging agency databases," he said.
The idea was to bring IT platforms together, not information, he
said. "Apart from the limited data that is already shared between
agencies like Medicare and Centrelink, no more information will be
shared, unless the individual concerned asks us to share the
information for their convenience," he said.
Human Services had been working with the privacy commissioner
from the beginning, he said, working on a memorandum of
understanding to cover the reforms. Personal health information in
particular will be excluded from the reforms because of its