​Australian government spent AU$1.2b on IT in 2017-18

The Digital Transformation Agency revealed current IT projects across the Australian government are valued at AU$7.8 billion.

Non-corporate Commonwealth entities spent a total of AU$1.2 billion on IT and digital initiatives in 2017-18, a report from the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) has revealed.

The DTA is responsible for looking into the structure of technology projects undertaken across all federal government departments and agencies that exceed AU$10 million.

After being charged with the responsibility in early 2017, the DTA revealed in its Annual Report [PDF] that over the course of 2017-18 it monitored 84 IT projects, valued at a total of AU$7.8 billion.

See also: The Australian government and the loose definition of IT projects 'working well'

ZDNet reported in May that 14 of the then 80 IT projects it was overseeing were being "closely" monitored, labelling the projects from the Bureau of Meteorology, Department of Human Services, Department of Education, Department of Finance, Department of Defence, Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Bureau of Statistics, Department of Veterans Affairs, Federal Court Australia, and the DTA itself as requiring "engagement".

The DTA, through its Digital Investment Management Office, "monitors, verifies, and engages" with the programs, it said, and labels them as at one of those three stages. Getting on the agency's "engage" list means the project, already exceeding AU$10 million in government expenditure, is either highly complex, has a wide community reach, or the DTA has highlighted a declining confidence in delivery.

The probe in May resulted in the scrapping of the Department of Education's Australian Apprenticeship Management System (AAMS) project, following a number of delays and a doubling in cost.

The project was awarded to NEC in October 2015 and was worth an initial AU$10 million. The cost of the project blew out to nearly AU$20 million before it was cancelled.

"We are building a clearer picture of the breadth of projects, and helping to improve return on this investment," the DTA wrote in its Annual Report.

"During the year we engaged with a wide range of agencies through our initial review of digital investments including costs, benefits, risks, and status of ICT projects and programs worth more than AU$10 million. The aim was to see how major ICT projects were tracking and help set them up for success."

The DTA said it worked with more than 24 agencies as part of the probe.

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Budgets for active major IT initiatives by portfolio, as at June 30, 2018

In addition to overseeing the IT spend of Commonwealth entities, the DTA said it focused on four other main priorities: The development of a digital transformation roadmap; improving digital government platforms; overhauling IT procurement; and transforming the Australian Public Service (APS) into a more tech-savvy one.

"The roadmap will allow the government to identify and fund the digital transformation initiatives that will have the greatest impact on user experiences," the DTA wrote.

See also: Government IT procurement still favouring the big end of tech town

Under the roadmap, the DTA said at the end of 2017-18 it started drafting and consulting on a seven-year Digital Transformation Strategy. The overarching strategy brings together the Secure Cloud Strategy published in February; the Hosting Strategy and Platforms Strategy, which are both due in November; a Content Strategy; and the Trusted Digital Identity Framework, which it drafted up earlier this year.

During the year, the DTA said it also increased the proportion of services that are delivered digitally and improved the user experience.

Where improved government service delivery is concerned, the DTA updated the public-facing myGov portal and kicked off the beta for its GovPass digital identity play, as some examples.

The DTA is attempting to spread the AU$6.5 billion spent annually on IT by the Australian government across the smaller players by refreshing the way the government procures IT-related services.

Its Annual Report detailed the completion of its ICT procurement framework and policies, the updating of the Digital Marketplace, and whole-of-government volume sourcing, which included engaging in multibillion-dollar contracts with IBM, SAP, and Microsoft.

The Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) wants to create a more agile and technology-focused public service workforce, and the program of work to do just that is being overseen by the DTA.

There are three main projects within the program of work, with the first looking specifically to attract digital professionals into the public service.

See also: Turnbull commissions capability review of Australia's Public Service

The second project is aiming to develop digital skills within the public service, with a looming technology skills shortage making it hard for the government to take the lion's share; and the third project is addressing the cultural change that needs to happen for the APS to drive its digital transformation -- a digital leadership program targeted at senior executives.

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