IT comes up trumps in NSW budget

An outlay of several hundreds of millions of dollars this financial year will see IT projects across the NSW government kick on.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor

The Departments of Health, Education, Police and Justice, took home a sizable chunk of the information technology funds on offer in the NSW budget for 2014-15.

The Health department picked up AU$83 million for e-Health and IT programs from the department's AU$18.7 billion budget for 2014-15, and will see AU$20 million spent to upgrade IT systems and enable wireless and mobile connectivity for clinical systems as part of the AU$23 million kicking off of the third phase of the department's critical ICT infrastructure enhancements program, that is projected to cost AU$51.1 million by 2018.

NSW's electronic health project, HealtheNet, will receive AU$10 milllion to fund the design and start of developing a "collaborative two way integrated care" portal for doctors, patients, and health care providers. On the remainder of the Health department's technology funding, the Ambulance service was allocated AU$5.3m, the community health and outpatients information system received AU$11.14m, the AU$170.3 million electronic medications management system got AU$26.68 million for this year, the intensive care unit clinical information system nabbed AU$13.42 million for 2014-15.

Attorney General and Minister for Justice Brad Hazzard hailed the AU$81.9 million set aside by the government across four years in the budget for technology and modernisation of the courts as a "record amount", and said that the four year AU$40 million Justice Audio Visual Link Consolidation project would expand to meet the future needs of criminal and civil cases across the state.

"There have been advances in expanding videoconferencing — in recent years an average 63,000 sessions a year were held connecting correctional centres, courts, legal professionals, health professionals and families," Hazzard said.

"But there are still parts of the State where, for example, juveniles and accompanying staff have to catch a plane for court appearances because there is no audio visual option."

An allocation of AU$42 million over four years was also set aside to "replace or remediate" the IT infrastructure throughout the Department of Police and Justice, as well as another AU$45 million over four years to begin the NSW police technology asset replacement program

The Department of Education is set to spent AU$62 million on IT this year, with AU$250 million allocated for information technology until 2017-18.

Despite these large investments in IT across the state, the single largest item line for technology in the budget continues to be Sydney Water. Under a single IT projects entry, the utility is set to spent AU$70.1 million for this fiscal year, taking its total since 2001 to AU$482 million. Sydney Water's IT projects line item has an allocated budget of AU$1.25 billion to spent over a 24 year period until 2025, but has been in hot water in recent years over how it has spent its budget. In 2013, Sydney Water spent AU$7 million on a new website, accounting for 4.5 percent of its IT budget for the prior three years.

The NSW Legislature is scheduled to spend AU$4.9 million to 2016 replacing its Lotus Notes system, AU$1.8 million is slated for this financial year. A similar AU$4.9 million amount is set aside to fund the replacement of the IT infrastructure of the NSW Electore Office over an identical time period, AU$3.7 million is allocated for it this year.

The Department of Family and Community Services said it will spend AU$100 million over four years, AU$60 million capital and AU$39 million recurrent, to design and replace its frontline technology systems to allow caseworkers to be more timely and mobile.

"This will reduce their red-tape workload, freeing up time to be spent with vulnerable families," said Minister for Family and Community Services, Gabrielle Upton in a statement. "The IT improvements also allow greater sharing of information between the Department and the non-government sector."

In a one year program, the NSW Department of Finance and Services will begin and complete a AU$4.8m "transition" to cloud-based corporate and shared services, as well as a AU$2.3 million beginning on a AU$4.7 million whole of government data centre that is scheduled to complete in 2016. In new four year programs, Finance and Service will kick off a $19 million IT development program, a AU$15.3 million spatial data infrastructure project, and a AU$9.5 million technology asset replacement program.

Not to be left out, the Department of Premier and Cabinet is set to fund AU$54 million worth of projects for technology upgrades, initial work a payment gateway, and Service NSW network technology.

Despite casting a shadow over the funding and integrity of both sides of the parliamentary aisle, NSW's Independent Commission Against Corruption was granted AU$3.4 million to complete its AU$6.1 million IT upgrade that began in 2011.

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