Budget 2015: Digital Transformation gets AU$254m boost

Australian government agencies have been asked to contribute almost half of the funding for improved digital services.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

The government will invest AU$254.7 million to help drive use of digital government services in Australia.

The funding allocated in Tuesday's Federal Budget will see agencies driven to a digital-by-default standard to make sure all interaction with the government can be done online. Included in this funding is AU$95.4 million for the establishment of the Digital Transformation Office in the Department of Communications.

Despite being launched earlier this year under acting CEO David Hazlehurst, the government had not allocated any funding for the Digital Transformation Office prior to the 2015-16 Budget.

The office will be responsible for the overall implementation of the digital strategy, and will redesign services to be digital by default, Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull said.

A total of AU$254.7 million has been allocated over four years, with the government redirecting AU$120 million in savings from Communications, the Australian Taxation Office, the Department of Human Services, the Department of Finance, the Department of Social Services, and the Department of Industry and Science.

Agencies that are set to benefit from the DTO have been required to contribute funding, but the Department of Finance savings comes from the transfer of functions from the Australian Government Information Management Office.

The Department of Finance has shifted its focus to improving whole-of-government IT, and providing communications networks and online services.

Stage one of the Digital Transformation Agenda will see the government replicate many of the UK digital services, including digital ID services and a new grants administration platform.

AU$106.8 million will be spent on streamlining the government grants administration system by adopting standard business practices, a common IT platform, improved reporting arrangements, and one portal for searching and applying for grants.

AU$33.3 million will be spent on digital identification for businesses and individuals looking to interact with government services. Turnbull has said that this will be through myGov, and will include voice authentication and AU$11.5 million for data sharing so that people are not required to give the same information to multiple agencies.

AU$7.1 million will be spent on the government digital mailbox. Overall, the Department of Communications will see a 2.8 percent decrease in expenses between 2015-16 and 2017-18. The department attributed this to the restack of digital television, and funding ceasing for National ICT Australia.

The research organisation has received AU$21 million in this year's Budget, but has not had any additional funding allocated past this financial year.

The slight drop in expenses had been somewhat countered by the establishment of the Digital Transformation Office, the department noted.

NBN funding brought forward

The government funding for the company formerly known as NBN Co totalled AU$4.9 billion in 2014-15, and will bring forward funding over the next two financial years, consisting of AU$7.8 billion in the 2015-16 financial year and AU$8.3 billion in the 2016-17 financial year.

The department said AU$2.6 billion of the funding for NBN had been brought forward to "reflect the launch and scale of new network technologies", referring to the shift to the multi-technology mix model, including hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC) and fibre to the node.

Payments to NBN make up 21 percent of the total government capital budget. Software upgrades, by comparison, make up 10 percent. The government stated that NBN's government funding cap remains at AU$29.5 billion, and no further funding has been allocated beyond 2016-17.

Terminal liabilities sit at AU$7.9 billion, including AU$3.7 billion if the Telstra agreement is terminated.

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