NSW keeps the purse open to fund digital plans

The NSW government will continue its digital push, with the allocation of sizeable funds from the state budget for technology projects.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

With a surplus of AU$2.5 billion and a total spend on technology measured on the hundreds of millions of dollars, the New South Wales government has said its agencies and departments are serious about digitalisation.

Dominic Perrottet, the Minister for Finance, Services and Property, said that the 2015-2016 budget is making sure that public services in NSW are underpinned by the best technology.

"This budget shows the government is continuing to redesign government services around the citizen, shifting services and agencies into the digital era, and reducing unnecessary waste," he said.

The state's police force is to spend AU$100 million on mobile fingerprint scanners to identify known offenders, TruNarc testing machines to allow police to scan for multiple narcotics using a simple hand-held machine, as well as the rollout of portable tablet computers to access police data in the field -- an initiative neighbouring South Australia also announced last week.

The department's budget also includes AU$3.65 million to continue the allocation of body-worn video cameras, an initiative the state's Deputy Premier and Minister for Police, Troy Grant, has flagged as a success.

"These funds will future-proof the NSW Police Force to ensure police have access to the latest and most innovative ways to respond to crime, freeing them up to spend more time on the beat, protecting the community,'' Grant said.

Service NSW will receive AU$362 million to increase the number of digital interactions between consumers and government, and to roll out a further 27 one-stop shops across the state. The Office of State Revenue will manage the collection of revenue with a AU$296 million boost, with AU$36 million tagged for datacentre reform and government licensing. Whilst AU$21 million will go towards the State Records' record digitalisation.

Funding for the Department of Finance, Services and Innovation includes AU$64 million over four years toward a cloud solution to consolidate datacentres, and AU$10 million over two years to integrate the OneGov System Platform with Service NSW to allow more than 150 self-service transactions to be preformed on mobile phones and tablets.

Meanwhile, health services in regional areas will receive AU$5 million to further increase the eHealth network capacity, a website allowing users to access their health records and approve the forwarding of their information to doctors, hospitals, and other healthcare providers. To continue the rollout of a further 100 telehealth sites, enabling patients to have consultations with specialists via video conference, the service will receive AU$4 million over four years. Health Minister, Jillian Skinner, said the government will also invest in innovative programs and new technologies to ensure rural patients also receive the right care.

The state's Attorney General's office will receive a further AU$10 million toward the justice system's audio visual link consolidation project to expand the service to meet the future needs of criminal and civil cases across the state, and AU$3.5 million will go towards the completion of the department's Justice Online transition.

Following an election commitment, telecommunication services in regional NSW will be given AU$25.5 million over three years under the mobile black spot program.

Planning for Smart Motorways -- a managed motorways program that uses technology to monitor traffic conditions -- will receive AU$15 million to get the ball rolling, whilst real-time travel information will get an injection of AU$9 million toward its IT infrastructure.

The Rural Fire Service will also receive more than AU$5.2 million, with a chunk to fund the development of a web portal for landowners to access information about bushfire risk and mitigation.

Seniors can also gain IT knowledge with the "Tech Savvy Seniors" program receiving AU$2 million over four years to help older people learn to use technology such as computers, tablets, and smartphones.

The government has also committed AU$397 million over four years to help create 150,000 jobs, grow local businesses, and attract new business into the state. As part of this investment, AU$25 million will be used to establish a "Jobs of Tomorrow" scholarship to encourage students to undertake technology qualifications at a tertiary level.

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