Everything is big in Queensland

Queensland never does anything by halves.
Written by Renai LeMay, Contributor

commentary Queensland never does anything by halves.


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Renai LeMay

Not content to rest on its laurels as the state that brought Australia iconic large things such as the Big Pineapple, the Big Mango and the Big Cow, Queensland has recently kicked off a slew of absolutely mammoth government information technology projects.

In late July, the Department of Public Works, which houses the state's chief information officer Alan Chapman, said it would soon implement an initiative that will see up to 80,000 email accounts consolidated into one overarching Microsoft Exchange 2007 system. And that's just for starters.

Eventually the email system, one of Australia's largest, might need to hold more than 200,000 accounts, as government workers who used rival platforms, such as Novell Groupwise and Lotus Notes, could be migrated across. Not bad numbers at all, especially considering lesser email systems holding merely tens of thousands of accounts regularly give IT managers Friday afternoon headaches.

But that's not all. Public Works is also overseeing a range of other initiatives: such as a trial outlined last week of an application virtualisation solution that could see human resources and finance apps delivered to 150,000 users.

Then there's the centralisation of hundreds of millions of dollars of government software and hardware purchasing ... Hewlett-Packard might remember that one after its reseller Data#3 embarrassingly pipped it to the post for a panel contract supplying desktop PCs and laptops to the government.

Education departments always think big, so perhaps it was no surprise today that the state's Department of Education, Training and the Arts revealed it was most of the way through rolling out standard desktop and server operating environments to more than 1,200 schools.


The Big Pineapple
(Credit: Coolum Beach)

But Queensland Transport's huge initiative to replace its antiquated drivers' licences with modern equivalents containing microchips would give anyone pause for thought. Not only is the initiative one of Australia's largest smartcard implementations of any kind, touching about 2.7 million Queenslanders, its leaders have even larger goals involving social reform.

Departmental official Judy Oswin told a Sydney conference a few months ago the new cards would not display holders' addresses on the front, instead holding the data digitally on the microchip. I wouldn't like to be the man that had to explain that one to video store clerks around the nation.

What all these projects represent is nothing short of a revolution.

Over the past few years, all of Australia's states have tried in one form or another to bring a sharp degree of centralisation to their IT support operations and save money through scale as well as boost cross-agency collaboration.

However, most have failed. Victoria's plans suffered a major setback in late 2006 when the state's CIO Jane Treadwell was quietly shunted sideways after a state election, the role of the federal government's Australian Government Information Management Office is currently under a cloud due to the Gershon review initiated by Lindsay Tanner's razor gang, and Western Australia's shared services initiative is running badly behind budget and schedule.

Nobody could describe things as "ship-shape" at the NSW government at present after the resignation of troubled premier Morris Iemma, and state CIO Emmanuel Rodriguez has doggedly shunned the press since his appointment almost a year ago, leading to questions about the status of NSW's People First consolidation project.

In contrast to all the chaos and despite the defection of Chapman's predecessor Peter Grant to Microsoft in December 2007, Queensland is one of the only state governments that appears to be quietly powering ahead with its IT centralisation plans, which mostly date back to a landmark package of reforms handed down by IT minister Robert Schwarten in late 2006.

Of course, the state hasn't been without its problems ... the mysterious recent firing of Queensland Health's CIO Paul Summergreene being a high-profile example.

However, it'd be hard to say Queensland wasn't leading the pack in getting some concrete IT projects underway that could make a difference to the ability of its public servants to carry out government business. If nothing else, the state's technology leadership is at least winning the war for credibility in Australia's public sector.

Are you a public sector IT worker in Queensland? Is the state heading in the right direction or not? Post your thoughts below or drop us a line.

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