​Innovation department hunts cyber advisory package for Australian SMEs

The department has published a request for tender seeking a provider to develop a cybersecurity-focused package for advisors to drum in the importance of protecting assets to Australian SMEs.
Written by Asha Barbaschow on

The Department of Industry, Innovation and Science has gone to tender to find a provider to develop a package to help Australian small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) understand and tackle cybersecurity.

The department is after a supplier to design, develop, and deliver cybersecurity-focused materials for business advisors to motivate Australian SMEs, while still adhering to their responsibility under the Business Evaluation (BE) process -- a service under the Business Management element of the Entrepreneurs' Programme.

"Although Australian SMEs account for almost 70 percent of all employment in Australia, they do not always have the resources to manage specialist areas of business activity -- including cybersecurity -- and the role of business advisers is to engage with them on their continued performance," the RFT explains.

The RFT is asking for cybersecurity materials to be written in "nontechnical" language that can be absorbed by business advisors and owners of SMEs with little or no IT or cybersecurity understanding.

The materials must provide advisors with an enhanced capability to assess the relevance and impact of cybersecurity when working with SMEs, the RFT states. The training materials must also reflect the BE Framework, the Action Plan fundamentals -- described as a deliverable from the BE that business advisors write and deliver to SMEs which includes recommendations for improvements -- and the scope for a "quality action".

The department is asking for an online diagnostic, described as 15-20 minute questionnaire that allows SMEs to self-assess their cybersecurity risk and maturity, and be alerted to any red flags for the business.

It is expected to highlight to SMEs the value of data they have access to and are responsible for, and the impact a cybersecurity incident involving this data could have.

The RFT also asks for a business advisor cybersecurity diagnostic, which is essentially a more detailed version of the SME-targeted one and is expected to assist advisors in formulating a cybersecurity action plan.

The department wants to see examples of where a respondent has implemented such materials elsewhere, as well as hear of case studies that can be used to train business advisors on the importance of cyber resiliency.

The successful recipient of the six-month government contract will also be required to train business advisors via an online webinar and face-to-face workshop.

"Cash flow can make or break a business. If it is invested it can grow, and if its pervasiveness goes unchecked it can leak. Data is no different," the RFT explains.

"Investing in the digital mesh across suppliers, customers, and interconnected equipment can support growth, and data leakage leads to theft and sabotage by those who see the value.

"This valuing of data requires a profound shift in how we do business and the need to improve cybersecurity to protect data; global value chains are increasingly a function of dollars and data, and the need to speak a trusted digital language will quickly create winners and losers."

Earlier this month, Assistant Minister for Digital Transformation Angus Taylor criticized the procurement method currently in place for lower cost government projects, highlighting that the panel process has been a big barrier to smaller, innovative companies getting access to government opportunities.

The assistant minister explained that often panels are being used by government for projects that lie within the AU$80,000 to AU$5 million bracket, as they have previously not been large enough to require a customised solution, or large enough that provider selection warrants intervention from government.

Taylor explained this spend bracket is also the sweet spot for SMEs, as generally the projects can be turned around quickly, and allow for a single technology solution to a problem that is reasonably digestible.

"We know that by increasing our spend on SMEs we can create a whole industry in this country. An allocation of 10 percentage points more of our IT spend -- of AU$9 billion -- to SMEs will be one of the biggest investments in innovation in this country's history," Taylor said.

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