Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: Coronavirus: Business and technology in a pandemic

ATO provides staff with Dell and HP kit to work remotely

The taxation office has provided Dell laptops and HP monitors to staff now working from home as a result of the coronavirus social distancing restrictions.

ATO provides staff with Dell and HP kit to work remotely
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The local arms of Dell Technologies and HP Inc have provided the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) with equipment, as the government entity deals with new working conditions due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Dell Australia's AU$2.1 million contract will be for the supply of new laptops, specifically Dell Latitude 5400 laptops. HP, for a cost of AU$480,000 through local partner Kirra Services, has supplied staff of the ATO with HP E243 IPS monitors.

Both were procured through the Digital Transformation Agency's Hardware Marketplace Panel.

The ATO told ZDNet these new laptops and monitors supplement its existing fleet.

"The ATO purchased these for staff working remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic and will continue to use them once conditions return to normal. Enabling staff to work remotely is part of the ATO's business continuity plan," a spokesperson said.

"The laptops and monitors are not for a particular group of ATO staff but are being allocated according to the ATO's priorities, particularly those relating to the COVID-19 stimulus measures. Once the COVID-19 period has finished, they will be reallocated according to the ATO's priorities at that time."

In April alone, Dell Australia was also awarded a AU$183,000 contract from the ATO for computer equipment; AU$968,000 across three contracts from the Department of Defence for computer equipment and accessories; a AU$27,500 contract from the Australian Bureau of Statistics for "components for information technology or broadcasting or telecommunications"; and another AU$27,500 from the Australian Federal Police for the supply of computer equipment.

See also: IBM, Telstra, Boeing among largest tech suppliers to Australian government

The ATO on Tuesday also announced special arrangements this year at tax time due to COVID-19, aimed at making it easier for people to claim deductions for working from home.

The new arrangement will optionally allow people to claim a rate of 80 cents per hour for all their running expenses, rather than needing to calculate costs for specific running expenses. Multiple people living in the same house can claim this new rate. People can still use the old arrangements if they wish.

With around 1 million Australians potentially forced onto welfare in the wake of COVID-19 social distancing measures and business closures, local IT services vendor Datacom has separately announced that it would hire over 2,000 people to help with demand for government services.

The new roles will be in "purpose-built contact centres" across Australia, Datacom said, as the company works to provide services for the federal agencies providing frontline services for the country's COVID-19 response.

"With enormous pressure on these services, Datacom is in the unusual position of recruiting up to 2,000 people to support telehealth services and other essential government services," Datacom managing director Stacey Tomasoni said.

"We're working with partners including Qantas, Concentrix, and Hatch.Exchange to provide employees with work during the period they have been stood down, and in some cases beyond."

Datacom is actively seeking people in Adelaide, Sydney, Canberra, and Brisbane, Tomasoni added.

Datacom is also working with the government to establish work from home employment for many of their existing employees and for those hired for this national effort.

The company said it has been able to scale rapidly as it "utilises innovative technology and new ways of working to streamline contact centre operations", which includes leveraging artificial intelligence and cloud technology.

Elsewhere, Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts Paul Fletcher and the eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant have announced a new guide to online safety for parents and carers.

See also: Prime Minister reckons a booklet will keep Aussie kids safe online

According to the pair, the guide has specific tips and advice for how to navigate children who have been spending more time online due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Higher use of the internet during the COVID-19 crisis has been accompanied by a 40% spike in reports to eSafety across its reporting areas, Inman Grant said.

eSafety's "top tips for parents" in protecting their kids online include using parental controls in apps and devices to monitor and limit what their child does online, setting time limits for using devices during non-school hours, keeping kids in open areas of the home when using their devices, turning on or reviewing privacy settings to restrict who contacts their child within apps and games, and joining the child's online activities.

At the time of writing, the World Health Organization reported that there have been over 1.2 million confirmed cases, with over 67,000 fatalities as a result of the virus. Australia has reported nearly 5,900 cases and 44 deaths.

There have been over 304,000 COVID-19 tests undertaken in Australia.

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