​Commonwealth searches for network and cabling service providers

The re-branded government ICT Hardware Panel has been opened to providers of network equipment and cabling services.

The Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) is seeking vendors to join its Hardware Marketplace, specifically to provide government entities with network equipment and cabling services.

In the approach to market published on Monday, the DTA explains it is seeking to establish a pricing regime which caps the price of the offerings for the term of the agreement -- until June 30, 2021 -- and guarantees minimum discounts off list or recommended retail price.

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The Hardware Marketplace is divided into different categories of offerings, with a separate panel of suppliers established for each category. The latest application process is to establish further offerings within Category 2 Network Equipment and Category 3 Cabling Services.

"We intend to re-open each category on the Hardware Marketplace at least every 12 months to allow existing sellers to submit updated pricing, and to allow submissions of new applications to become a seller," the DTA explains. "There is currently no limit on the number of sellers that we may enrol in any category or sub-category, although we may change this policy in the future."

The Australian government announced in August last year it was going to be shaking up the way it procures technology services, offering startups and small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) a larger portion of Canberra's technology spend.

Attempting to make good on the promise, the DTA announced its intention to launch the Hardware Marketplace, which it touted as a place for government to buy products like monitors, tablets, PCs, servers, and technical services from the smaller vendors, in a space usually reserved for the technology heavyweights.

The Hardware Marketplace supersedes the ICT Hardware Panel and expands on the categories of equipment and associated services made available to buyers.

Although the re-branded panel is open to smaller players, vendors need to prove their technical merit, commercial capability, benefit to the Australian economy, and level of risk associated with selecting them, as well as provide a competitive price for their services and what in addition to tendered for they can supply before being accepted onto the marketplace.

Australian Energy Minister Angus Taylor, in his former role as Assistant Minister for Cities and Digital Transformation, revealed in November that since August 2016, SMEs have been awarded 75 percent of AU$50 million in technology contracts published on the Digital Marketplace.

However, during a Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit hearing in February, it was revealed that consultancy giants EY and PwC were classed as SMEs by the Australian government as a result of multiple subsidiaries or a number of ABNs registered to the parent company.

The definition of an SME is 200 employees or less, the joint committee was told.

Taylor, who considers Australia's approach to cybersecurity "world leading", and who last year called the Australian government a big bureaucratic beast, believes that in order for the government to make good on its promise to undergo a digital transformation, it needs to change the way it procures products and services.

Read also: Data#3 scores whole of Australian government Microsoft licensing contract | Australian government spent AU$364m on Microsoft licensing in 2013-16 | Australian government paid AU$4.9b to IBM, Boeing, Lockheed Martin for IT services

The DTA said it intends to conduct separate approaches to market in the future for offerings in other categories, noting also there is no limit on the number of categories it may decide to add to the marketplace.

The approach to market closes November 9, 2018.

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