​NSW Budget: State continues focus on digital transformation

Upgrading legacy infrastructure and transforming government delivery were high on the agenda of the New South Wales government in delivering its 2017-18 Budget.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

Mapping the NSW Budget

Screenshot: Asha Barbaschow/ZDNet

New South Wales Treasurer Dominic Perrottet has handed down his first state Budget, with innovation and digital transformation of industries and government key to this.

The government on Tuesday announced that it will continue to "pursue innovation in the delivery of services, and build systems and capability to measure the outcomes of expenditure and make better decisions about future investments".

In a bid to bolster its digital transformation, the state announced a AU$55 million operating budget for the Rental Bond Board, which will for the first time include providing open access to raw rental bond data from around the state.

The NSW Electoral Commission will be receiving an end-to-end solution for the disclosure of political donations, expenditure, and the lodgement of public funding claims, and improvements to the state's controversial iVote system for a cost of AU$12.8 million.

Sydney Water will also be investing AU$156 million into its information technology project CxP, which is touted by the NSW government as a single enterprise solution for customer interactions. It will also deliver a new billing and customer management system.

In a bid to accelerate online housing development applications (DA), AU$11.8 million has been offered for a cloud-based DA assessment system for regional councils and small metropolitan councils with low capability.

The government said the cloud-based offering will replace the disparate paper processes that are currently in use.

The Sydney Modern Project will enhance the gallery's digital capability to offer interactive experiences for visitors and display new digital art forms, with AU$244.3 million in funding over five years handed over for the project on Tuesday.

As part of an environmental reform, AU$18.1 million will be invested into digital and IT tools to support the operation of the Biodiversity Reforms and new biodiversity offsets scheme. It is expected that it will also support integrated IT systems across Office of Environment and Heritage and Local Land Services.

AU$160.5 million in 2017-18 was awarded to continue the construction of the Western Sydney Stadium in Parramatta, which will include the provision of "advanced technology" such as Wi-Fi.

In a bid to enhance the transparency and accessibility of information underpinning the Budget papers, key financial information was made accessible via three Excel spreadsheets covering budgeted financial statements for all sectors, historical financial indicators, and macro-economic indicators.

The government also provided a link to an interactive map in delivering this year's Budget, which plots out spots throughout the state that scored funding.

Perrottet also said that over the past 12 months, the Commissioning and Contestability Unit -- established within Treasury in 2016-17 to drive a whole-of-government approach to better service delivery -- in consultation with service delivery agencies has developed a whole-of-government framework for using commissioning and contestability to reform services.

The NSW Government Commissioning and Contestability Policy, released in November 2016, sets the state's expectation for how to design, fund, and facilitate new service models that "enhance outcomes for citizens and put the customer at the centre".

The Budget documentation explains that this unit is now working with agencies to embed commissioning across government by identifying services that would benefit from "innovative" approaches, and partnering with them to deliver projects to provide improved service outcomes.

Perrottet, who assumed his new position in January when former NSW Premier Mike Baird announced his retirement from politics, said opening up opportunities for businesses to grow was high on his agenda for 2017-18, alongside health, education, roads and transport, and community and family support.

With a surplus of AU$4.5 billion expected in 2016-17 and forecast average surpluses of AU$2.0 billion from 2017-18 to 2020-21, Perrottet said the Budget is looking ahead to future challenges to safeguard the state's fiscal position.

The NSW Police Force and NSW Health also scored funding for digital initiatives in this year's Budget, with startups and small-to-medium enterprises also receiving funding for skills training and business-related initiatives.

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