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NSW government signs Microsoft for cloud services

Five state government departments will gain access to Microsoft Office 365 and the tech giant's other cloud and mobility services under the deal.

The New South Wales government has announced a cloud computing contract for an undisclosed amount with Microsoft, aimed at digitising services and improving efficiency and productivity across agencies.

The agreement, announced by the state government on Thursday morning, will see Microsoft provide cloud and mobility services including Office 365 through its local datacentres to 130,000 employees across five departments: The Department of Health; the Department of Finance, Services, and Innovation; the Department of Family and Community Services; the Department of Planning and Environment; and the Department of Justice.

According to NSW Minister for Finance, Services, and Property Dominic Perrottet, using the suite of collaborative technologies will break down agencies' silos, encouraging departmental information sharing, as well as improving efficiency.

"Taking advantage of new technology is integral to the NSW government's commitment to delivering the best possible service to the people of NSW," Perrottet said.

"Working with leading-edge suppliers to implement cloud-based technology means our agencies can be more responsive, agile, and innovative, delivering citizen-focused services anywhere, anytime, while benefiting from increased scalability and flexibility."

Microsoft said the arrangement would enable government agencies to improve productivity and modernise processes across the board.

"The agreement means NSW departments will be able to access a range of cloud and mobility services, including Microsoft Office 365, which are hosted in Microsoft's local datacentres," Michael Gration, head of Microsoft Australia's Public Sector division, said in a blog post.

"NSW departments will be able to integrate cloud solutions with their existing Microsoft platforms, which will provide great potential over time for them to collaborate, share information, and encourage greater community feedback and engagement."

Putting more services online would also improve citizens' experience when dealing with government, the tech giant pointed out.

"Microsoft is delighted to provide new cloud and collaboration services that will offer significant benefits for government departments and the people of NSW, helping to modernise workplaces and increase productivity," Microsoft Australia MD Pip Marlow said.

Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation Victor Dominello said the government is continuing to build out its IT strategy [PDF] using the AU$2 billion allocated to IT to improve efficiency in service delivery.

"This agreement will ensure the NSW government has the digital capabilities needed to deliver better services to citizens in an era of rapid technological change," Dominello said.

During the 2015-16 NSW Budget, the government allocated AU$362 million for Service NSW to digitise its services; AU$5 million to the Department of Health to improve e-health services and AU$4 million to establish 100 new telehealth sites; AU$296 million to allow the Office of State Revenue to move its revenue-collection systems to datacentres and digitise records; AU$100 million to enable NSW Police to deploy fingerprint scanners, TruNarc machines, and tablets and AU$3.65 million for body-worn cameras for police officers; and AU$296 million to allow the Office of State Revenue to move its revenue-collection systems to the cloud and digitise records.

The NSW Department of Finance, Services, and Innovation also received AU$64 million over four years to develop and deploy a cloud and datacentre solution, as well as AU$10 million over two years to integrate the OneGov System Platform with Service NSW to put more government services online.

The mobile black spot program to improve regional telco services was also given AU$35.5 million over three years, while AU$10 million was allocated to the Attorney-General's Department to expand its audio-visual link consolidation project and AU$3.5 million to complete its Justice Online transition. Planning for Smart Motorways received AU$24 million in total to manage motorways and monitor traffic.

The NSW government's decision to sign on for major cloud deployment follows the Australian government last year announcing a whole-of-government policy that mandates all federal agencies adopt cloud computing where it is fit for purpose, provides adequate data protection, and delivers value for money.

The Australian Government Cloud Computing Policy [PDF] laid out the policy for the creation of cloud services and data automation.

In February, Australian Finance Minister Mathias Cormann announced the initial 49 IT companies chosen to be included in the whole-of-government cloud services panel, with Microsoft, Datacom, IBM, and Macquarie Telecom among the first.

The South Australian government in July signed a similar deal with telecommunications provider iiNet to establish a pay-as-you-go, consumption-based infrastructure-as-a-service cloud model for its Departments of Premier and Cabinet; Planning, Transport, and Infrastructure; and Communities and Social Inclusion.

The SA government's cloud services will be hosted in iiNet's two datacentres in Adelaide, iiNet general manager for Business and Government Daryl Knight told ZDNet.

"This infrastructure will be there for government to use. We're very confident there will be significant workloads that will be put onto this platform, and we're confident it will be there for some time, provided we deliver a good service and deliver value for money for the state," he said.

"It's spread across two datacentres iiNet owns in Adelaide, and there is a natural advantage there that appeals to the state, because the infrastructure is located in the state it resides, and we've got connectivity straight into the state's internal data network."

The federal government has also been digitising its services, with the Digital Transformation Office (DTO) established at the beginning of the year to unify government agencies and services online.

The DTO, which works across all government agencies in collaboration with businesses and universities, was tasked primarily with creating a single online myGov portal for dozens of government-related services.

The DTO resides within the Department of Communications, with Minister for Communications Mitch Fifield now overseeing the office.

The office was launched in March, despite not receiving funding for its set-up until the government allocated it AU$95.4 million over the next four years in the 2015-16 Budget in May.

In creating the DTO, now-Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the office would be sharing its processes, platforms, apps, and inner workings with other similar agencies and organisations; under the program, the federal, state, and territory governments will all gain access to the system to use as a platform for their own online services.

"We will make these platforms available to all governments, and we are going to make them available for free. We want to break down silos, break down all of the inertia that comes from empire building, so that citizens or businesses will have a seamless, straightforward way of dealing with government -- federal, state, or local -- from a single platform," Turnbull said in January.

"Citizens just want to get good service from government. They're not interested in all the layers of government. We've got to break down the silo mentality so people understand the object is the customer, and the object is delivering."

DTO CEO Paul Shetler recently argued that poor IT systems have hampered agencies and departments for years, slowing progress and reducing the government's effectiveness.

"It's a delivery issue, not a policy issue," the CEO said at the Technology in Government event in Canberra.

The CEO referred to recent research conducted by Deloitte arguing that improved digital interaction between citizens and government could translate into cost savings of AU$20.5 billion.