NT Budget: AU$18m for cybersecurity, mobile coverage, datacentres

The territory government has allocated AU$250,000 for cybersecurity, AU$2 million for its new Remote Telecommunications Co-Investment Program with Telstra, and AU$2.55 million for increasing remote communications connectivity and capacity.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

The Northern Territory government has published its Budget for 2018-19, revealing its plans to spend AU$18.38 million on new initiatives under the Department of Corporate and Information Services.

According to the Agency Budget Statements paper [PDF], new initiatives include increasing remote communications connectivity and capacity, for which it has set aside AU$2.55 million for 2018-19; AU$250,000 for "strengthening cybersecurity"; AU$10.3 million for rolling out a client management system on behalf of Territory Families; and AU$3.28 million for relocating the Chan datacentre.

Existing initiatives under the department have also received funding, including AU$70.2 million for the core clinical systems renewal program for the Department of Health; AU$19.3 million for a policing management system for police, fire, and emergency services; and AU$2.7 million for an identity and access management system.

It also set aside AU$2 million for the 2018-22 Remote Telecommunications Co-Investment Program with Telstra, after the territory government spent AU$5 million last financial year on the 2015-18 Remote Telecommunications Co-Investment Program with Telstra.

According to the Budget Strategy and Outlook [PDF], the government will be spending AU$14 million over four years from 2018-19 for the new Remote Telecommunications Co-Investment Program, and AU$8.5 million on remote communications connectivity and capacity.

Instead of waiting for broadband to be delivered by the federal government's National Broadband Network (NBN), the Northern Territory government had last month said it is relying on its own AU$30 million co-investment program with Telstra to deliver mobile and fixed coverage to 17 remote communities.

It has also been lobbying both NBN and the federal government to make use of the existing fibre-optic infrastructure in 39 NT communities "rather than the technically inferior satellite solution".

The Northern Territory government had announced in last year's Budget that it would spend AU$5 million to establish an Office of Digital Government to sit inside the Department of Corporate and Information Services.

On Tuesday, it revealed output of AU$10.5 million for Digital Government during 2017-18, which was primarily related to "additional funding for remote telecommunications connectivity and capacity".

The AU$9.7 million output expected for Digital Government in 2018-19 "reflects the timing of funding for a new Remote Telecommunications Co‑Investment Program with Telstra, partially offset by additional funding for remote communications connectivity and capacity", the government said.

Under the department's Shared Services portfolio, Information and Communications Technology Services output was AU$33.4 million, with AU$34.1 million predicted for 2018-19 due to "a realignment of ICT service charges"; Project Services output was AU$7.9 million, with AU$8.5 million allocated for 2018-19 thanks to "timing adjustments for major ICT project"; Finance Services output is expected to fall to AU$24 million after an output of AU$33.3 million this year, due to finalising the Asset System Nexus (ASNEX) project; and Project Services output is expected to rise from AU$7.9 million in 2017-18 to AU$8.5 million in 2018-19 due to additional funding for the Chan datacentre relocation.

"The Department of Corporate and Information Services provides shared corporate and information and communications technology (ICT) services to support government agencies, including financial and human resource administration, contract services, property leasing services, cybersecurity, and project services," the papers explained.

"The department also has a digital leadership role to support government and agencies in advancing digital initiatives through the Office of Digital Government."

The department outlined its strategic issues for 2018-19 as leading the Digital Territory Strategy; encouraging data sharing; advising on and overseeing agency IT initiatives; expanding telco services in remote areas; improving the core systems for health, policing, and child protection; increasing government IT services reliability and resilience through "cybersecurity controls, education, and inter-jurisdictional cooperation"; and implementing a new cybersecurity governance system for whole of government.

The government's Data Centre Services agency, meanwhile, spent AU$21.5 million on datacentre management during 2017-18 and gained AU$25.2 million in datacentre management income, for a surplus of AU$3.6 million. It is estimating a surplus of AU$4.2 million for 2018-19.

"Data Centre Services delivers core information and communications technology infrastructure and supporting services to territory government agencies," the agency explained.

The strategic issues for Data Centre Services in the year ahead are to establish a secondary datacentre through a public tender process; transitioning enterprise compute services to the new government datacentre; helping agencies modernise their core IT systems; and "optimising government's computing infrastructure performance".

The territory government is planning to move from 444 physical servers hosted to 460 in the next financial year; from 1,600 fully managed servers to 1,700; and from 3,800 terabytes of data storage to 4,100 due to transitioning to a dual-site model.

Also receiving tech-related funding is the Department of Education, which will see AU$400 million to upskill teachers in digital literacy; AU$275 million to expand enterprise education and innovation programs; AU$155 million for schools to undertake digital infrastructure and capability assessments; and AU$89 million to introduce computer coding training into primary and secondary schools.

Treasurer Nicole Susan Manison also used her speech [PDF] to announce that AU$18.1 million will be allocated for Darwin High School's redevelopment and expansion to support science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects, courses, and activities.

As part of the AU$229.6 million over five years to fund the recommendations of the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the NT, "a new IT system to ensure access to information to help with better case management of vulnerable children and their families" will also be created, Manison added.

Top End Health Service and Central Australia Health Australia will also look to increase their telehealth services during the year.

"Utilising new technologies to improve access to health services such as telehealth consultations, virtual emergency departments, and advanced diagnostic equipment in remote communities," the strategic issues for the latter said.

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