Australian govt desktop panel sees $27m saved

The Australian government's chief technology officer has revealed that the government's desktop hardware panel has helped save AU$27 million so far.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

The whole-of-government desktop hardware panel overseen by the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) has helped save the government AU$27 million so far, according to chief technology officer John Sheridan.

John Sheridan.
Image: Josh Taylor/ZDNet

Sheridan, who became the first chief technology officer for the Australian government on February 4, told journalists at the Kickstart conference on the Sunshine Coast on Sunday that the money saved over the last 18 months since the desktop panel came in had come about through a lower cost for purchasing equipment.

"We've saved, we think, in the 18 months to December 2012, some $27 million in desktop hardware prices," he said. Before we started this work, the average the Australian government paid for desktop hardware was 54 percent above the Australian average; it's now 49 percent below the Australian average."

He said that 90 agencies had now used this panel, buying AU$120 million worth of computer equipment through the desktop panel.

The other panels that the government has in place have also yielded benefits, Sheridan said. Through the whole-of-government datacentre panel comprising of 22 sites, some $24 million in costs have been avoided since the panel was put in place.

The internet services panel has had 58 orders from government agencies, accounting for AU$200 million in orders. Sheridan said that one of the immediate benefits of the panel arrangement is that it forces vendors to offer a better deal to government.

"We regularly see savings in excess of 50 percent, just by a vendor offering a new price under these new arrangements compared to what they were getting previously," he said.

"And we find this has driven better behaviour by vendors as they understand government won't just be renewing contracts because it's too hard to move, but rather, we'll be pushing for changes and pushing for improvements."

The government has had a volume-sourcing arrangement in place with Microsoft since 2009 to cover some 260,000 users, 300,000 devices, and 85 agencies, Sheridan said. It reduced 42 contracts covering 40 agencies down to one that covers 126 entities. This was expected to save the government AU$60 million over four years, but Sheridan said that the government has already managed to save AU$100 million.

"We've driven that price down through a combination of work with large account resellers, establishing one of those for government rather than having a panel of a large number."

The Microsoft agreement expires in June 2013, and Sheridan said AGIMO had started working in August last year on the replacement agreement.

Outside of the work on whole-of-government panels, Sheridan said that AGIMO oversees Australia.gov.au, which has some 1.9 million accounts for citizens, with 1.3 million linked to services through Centrelink, Child Support, Medicare, eHealth, or Veterans Affairs. The responsibility for these services will be transferred over to the Department of Human Services this financial year, Sheridan said, allowing AGIMO to shift the site into a public cloud.

"That will allow us to do a range of interesting things with the Australia.gov.au service," he said. "We're moving that from its current proprietary backend into a Drupal content management system, and we intend to rehost it in the public cloud.

"The sort of information that is on Australia.gov.au, once you take the account out, is the sort of information that sits very comfortably in the public cloud," he said.

Sheridan said that on Monday he would release on data.gov.au all of the Austender data for contracts signed off by the government. This will be released in one CSV file, he said, where people would be able to "sort and play with to your heart's content".

Sheridan landed the CTO role after the Australian government CIO Ann Steward announced her retirement last year, with Glenn Archer given the CIO position. On the split, Sheridan said that the two roles will put IT in front of mind in the department.

"This moves technology and IT issues from something that you bolt on at the back of a policy, but rather sticks at the front where policy is formulated," he said.

"This will make sure that technology issues better inform policy development."

Josh Taylor travelled to the Sunshine Coast as a guest of Media Connect.

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