Australian government dusts off digital strategy

The Australian government has updated its two-year-old digital strategy and combined it with some new initiatives and a number of already-announced policies.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

There will be free wi-fi for remote Indigenous communities, an expanded document verification service, and more government services online by 2017 under proposed actions in an overhauled digital strategy released by the Australian government today.

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy announced this morning that he is dusting off the two-year-old National Digital Economy Strategy to become Advancing Australia as a Digital Economy (PDF), with 24 new actions aimed to help the government meet the eight goals it set itself back in 2011 by 2020.

The government will develop a new curriculum for technology to be taught to all students, from foundation until year 8. The government will also invest AU$6.5 million over the next four years into National ICT Australia on a new program to encourage students to take up study in IT, including in areas where there are known skill shortages, such as advanced software developers, software engineers, and data scientists.

By the end of 2017, the government has also outlined that government agencies will need to provide user-friendly online access to priority services, with access provided through a single authentication method for desktop, mobile, and other means of accessing the sites.

To underpin this, the government will also look at expanding the use of the document verification service, and will make it more widely available to the private sector. It will also investigate the use of higher assurance digital credentials issued by financial organisations, and whether this can be used by government in establishing the identification of its users.

The document revealed that the AU$136,000 Cybersafety Help Button, designed by the government in 2010, which acts as a link to information for children on where to report issues online, has been downloaded 889,000 times as of the end of April this year.

While it was revealed earlier this year that Apple had rejected the app from its App Store for being too similar to a web link, the strategy document today revealed that Telstra is partnering with the government to have the help button put on some Telstra mobile devices before customers buy them.

There has been a trial conducted over the last four years, with 300 remote Indigenous communities getting free wi-fi from the government through satellite community telephones installed throughout remote Australia. The government said in the document that the trial was a success, with high use by the residents, and more community phones will now be adapted to support public wi-fi for these communities.

The government will also consider expanding the Medicare Benefits Schedule to allow patients to claim video-based consultations with their GPs.

A number of already-announced proposals, including the promotion of cloud computing, open data, and big data use, as well as the development of a national plan to combat cybercrime, were also included in the action points for the government to complete.

Editorial standards