​Canberra to deliver platform and hosting strategies by November

Digital Transformation Agency CDO Peter Alexander has pencilled in delivery of the pair of Commonwealth strategies for the second half of 2018.

The Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) has told a Senate committee it plans to release both a platform strategy and a hosting strategy before the end of the year.

"We're working on a platform strategy that absolutely will set out some whole-of-government platforms and capabilities which agencies would use for delivering a number of services, for example identity, tell us once, or payments," DTA chief digital officer Peter Alexander said on Monday, noting it will not include defining a particular operating system.

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"If an agency is running a mainframe to deliver a particular type of service and another agency who interacts with them is running another type of technology -- x86, another type of infrastructure -- do we say they have to run the same? No, but what we say is they have to interoperate and there has to be standardisation, so we build to open standards so we can interoperate, and share data and systems."

When asked by the Finance and Public Administration References Committee if the DTA will define a middleware layer used on government projects to allow for cross-agency use, Alexander said a separate strategy, the hosting strategy, will set a number of recommendations on hardware, middleware, and infrastructure.

The hosting strategy is pencilled in for an October release, while the platform strategy is slated for November, Alexander added.

Although tight-lipped on the specifics of both strategies, the CDO clarified that one strategy is about infrastructure and the operation of infrastructure, network, and comms, and the way they interoperate with applications; the other is about whole-of-government services.

Of concern to the committee is that not owning the intellectual property (IP) of what is used within the government means being bound to a particular vendor for upgrade and maintenance long-term.

"There was a requirement for government to own intellectual property and source code ... at least 10 years ago that changed to say that government did not always require to own IP but it was part of the negotiation of contracts," Alexander continued.

"The way we do approach that is with the Digital Service Standard, open standards is the key. We don't always insist on open source software ... but open standards that give you interoperability and the ability to shift."

Alexander said in the instance that software that has been built either by or for the government with a vendor, the government owns either the IP or at worse, the right to the IP.

Once such example would be the use of email, where the government certainly doesn't own the IP.

"The data's the most important part in that," he said. "When government pay for and build systems that do specific government services, we would own the IP"

The hosting and platform strategies follow the delivery of the Secure Cloud Strategy in February.

Touching also on myGov -- the federal government's contentious citizen engagement platform -- Alexander said the usage of myGov has grown this year, boasting now 12.5 million active accounts.

"myGov is also in a transition from the technology that's running it today to its integration with the new platform strategy. So we are looking to change the way you authenticate yourself on myGov, we are looking to build in this tell us once service, and we're looking to build in a payments utility and a notification utility," Alexander explained.

"We are looking to enhance and expand that service, but fundamentally myGov is delivered by the Department of Human Services."

myGov was launched in 2013 to make it easier for citizens to access a number of government services through a single web portal, with 13 services now provided through the portal, including those from Medicare, the Australian Taxation Office, Centrelink, Australian JobSearch, My Health Record, My Aged Care, Child Support, Department of Veterans' Affairs, National Disability Insurance Scheme, and the Victorian Housing Register Application.

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