NSW Budget allocates millions to create more 'agile' government

10 departments have been reduced to eight and its new Department of Customer Service has scored millions in the state's 2019-20 Budget.

The New South Wales government has given its new Customer Service Department millions to play with in the state's 2019-20 Budget, with Treasurer Dominic Perrottet saying the new department will result in a more "agile" government.

"One of the hallmarks of our government has been running a public service that is focused on the needs of our citizens," he said. "That means a bigger, better frontline and a leaner, more agile back-office."

This means 10 departments will be reduced to eight, with the Customer Service cluster now including Service NSW, the Long Service Corporation, the Rental Bond Board, the State Insurance Regulatory Authority, and the New South Wales Government Telecommunications Authority.

"While our frontline is again boosted, we will drive more efficiencies in our back-office and contingent labour expenses across government," Perrottet continued.

"We will also reduce spending on consultants and contractors, abolish bonuses for the highest paid department executives, and bring long-service leave benefits into line with community standards."

The department will have AU$100 million over the next two years to establish a Digital Restart Fund to support whole-of-government digital transformation.

The seed funding of AU$100 million will fund a whole-of-government digital transformation that the Budget papers [PDF] say will enhance customer experiences.

The transformation, the NSW government said, will include promoting the adoption of common platforms across government to remove duplication and increase efficiency.

According to the government, the initiative falls under the fourth pillar of its Budget, which is centred on ensuring government is focused on "delivering better outcomes, not bigger government".

"The government is continuing its move to outcomes budgeting. At the same time, it is announcing the Digital Restart Fund and is consolidating public sector agencies, so the state's public administration is streamlined, effective, and citizen focused," the papers continued.

Perrottet said the government is going to continue to make people's lives easier through a focus on digital government.

"Victoria has copied our Service NSW approach -- and now the Commonwealth too is jumping on board -- with the originally named 'Service Australia'," he said. "But we're going to take things to the next level."

In addition to the AU$50 million provided to Service NSW for initiatives such as standing up 10 new shopfronts, four new regional and rural service centre buses, and the rollout of digital driver's licences in August, the Department of Customer Service will be spending its funding on a handful of ongoing initiatives.

The Data Centre Consolidation Acceleration Program has been given AU$1.1 million this financial year, bringing the total cost of the project to AU$23.5 million; Data Conversion and Cleansing will have AU$2.4 million more, for a total spend of AU$14.5 million; the state's ICT Development Program will be boosted to AU$52.2 million, thanks to an additional AU$3.9 million; ICT projects will get another AU$4.4 million, for a total of AU$112 million; the Implementing ERP System Reform has AU$166,000 more for a total of AU$16.3 million; Information System Enhancements will now total AU$180.6 million, with AU$5.58 extra this financial year; the OneGov Digital Services Gateway has another AU$937,000 for a total of AU$14.9 million; Revenue NSW will have another AU$6.1 million this year to spend on critical system maintenance; the Spatial Data Infrastructure Program has received an extra AU$3.7 million to bring its total to AU$52.4 million; and the government's Technology Asset Replacement Program has been handed another AU$2.3 million, seeing the total tip AU$30.7 million.

ICT Assurance, an independent risk-based process developed to improve IT investment outcomes and deliver better value for the state's capital and recurrent IT spending will also fall under the Department of Customer Service.

Recurrent or capital IT proposals greater than AU$10 million, or other nominated projects below the threshold must register with ICT Assurance. The government said projects will then be tiered, based on risk and value. Those considered high risk will receive more assurance and reporting support.

More 2019 Budgets: Australian Capital TerritoryVictoriaQueensland, Western AustraliaNorthern TerritoryTasmaniaAustralia, and New Zealand 

Elsewhere in the Budget, AU$400 million over four years was also announced for the state's Regional Digital Connectivity program, with AU$300 million allocated to mobile blackspots and AU$100 million for regional data hubs to improve internet connectivity, speeds, and reliability in the state's regions.

See also: NSW government announces AU$8 million mobile blackspots program

As part of its aim to improve digital connectivity across regional NSW, the Budget papers say that government is also exploring infrastructure to provide faster and more reliable digital connectivity across regional parts of the state, which aims to improve liveability, productivity, and innovation in regional New South Wales.

"Business cases will explore regional data hubs, high-capacity 'backbone' data links to Sydney, and improved connectivity and data access for businesses," the government wrote.

The state also wants to give small businesses and tradies a head start in procurement by requiring NSW government agencies to consider small business suppliers for everything they buy.

Also under the banner of helping small businesses is the Western Sydney Start-up Hub, which for AU$6.6 million over four years will provide subsidised and affordable work spaces and programs for businesses and startups in Western Sydney, with operations starting 1 July 2020.

In its bid to create 250,000 jobs by 2023, the state will be standing up employment precincts to "drive jobs, boost education, and create innovation".

"Sydney is consolidating its position as a global hub for technology, investing in the creation of an innovation and technology precinct at Central-Eveleigh," the Budget papers say.

"The new Sydney Innovation and Technology Precinct will become the digital destination for all of Australia with thousands of people working and learning, enhancing the State's capability and assuring the jobs of the future."

Meanwhile, an agribusiness precinct will be stood up in the Western Sydney "Aerotropolis" that is expected to contribute directly to 2,500 jobs and support up to 12,000 more.

The precinct, the government said, will include a series of "high-tech" farming and climate-controlled glasshouses that will produce fresh food and handle incoming produce from local farms for global export.

AU$5.9 million over four years has been allocated to help women start their own business, with online courses for women to build their financial literacy and business startup skills, together with mentoring, networking, and coaching opportunities to be made available from January 2020.

Free TAFE qualifications and career counselling for up to 30,000 mature aged workers who are seeking to re-train or re-enter the workforce will also be offered, while AU$2 million has been earmarked for the development of a new website and mobile app to allow parents and carers to search for places online for before and after school care.

Technology-related infrastructure upgrades have also been funded to the tune of AU$695 million under the banner of transport.

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It includes upgrades to traffic light systems at 500 intersections across New South Wales.

The intelligent traffic light installations, the government said, is part of its plan to ease congestion.

"Intelligent traffic lights at priority intersections able to read the flow of the traffic and to clear traffic queues, reducing the number of stops in traffic by up to 15%," the Budget papers explained.

Also under the banner is a smart motorway upgrade on the M1 between Gosford and Sydney. It will include ramp meters, variable speed and message signs, and active CCTV monitoring to automatically adjust the speed of vehicles entering the motorway, in a bid to smooth traffic flow, and increase capacity.

The state government will also be investing in drone technology and virtual messaging to monitor more of the road network in real time and to report and clear incidents faster.

AU$10 million over two years has also been allocated to trial 10 electric buses at Randwick Bus Depot, as part of the government's Electric and Hybrid Vehicle Plan.

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