Qld gives IDES marching orders

The Queensland Government has announced that it is dumping its Identity, Directory and Email Services (IDES) program.
Written by Suzanne Tindal, Contributor

The Queensland Government has announced that it is dumping its Identity, Directory and Email Services (IDES) program.

The program, to deliver a centralised email, identity management and authentication service for the Queensland Government, was announced in 2007. Tenders were put out for these services in 2008. The budget was set at over $252 million for a ten-year period and it was hoped that the project would result in savings of $182 million, over a 10-year period.

As the first part of the project, all existing Microsoft Exchange installations were to be replaced by a whole-of-government email service (based on the new Exchange 2007 suite). Some 80,000 email accounts and up to 250,000 identities were to be migrated to the new system by June 2010.

To date, however, only 3100 users are currently using the centralised email service, and only $47.3 million has been spent.

Delays plagued the program, almost from the beginning. The initial pilot, which was supposed to involve 5000 staff, did not get off the ground on time because of delays in selecting project components. In 2010, then state ICT Minister Robert Schwarten said that completion of the project would be delayed until 2012.

"I make absolutely no apologies for taking this position. If necessary, I will delay every project if it means that programs are right to go live," Schwarten said at the time.

Whole-of-government provider CITEC was charged with managing the roll out of the system to agencies. The projected $252 million cost of the program was expected to be covered by savings made by agencies that took up the new system, and by a $45 million loan to help out with the first few years of the program (when there would be fewer users). However, user numbers did not ramp up as intended, and the 2011 Queensland Floods proceeded to cause further delays.

"It is estimated that the program will need to deliver services to approximately 81,000 users to break even," the Queensland auditor-general said in 2011.

Today, the government announced that it had completed a departmental review of IDES, which concluded that, on top of the $252 million that was expected to be spent on the program, a further investment of $25 million, over the next three years, would be required to bring enough users on to make the program viable. Instead of going down this path, the decision was made to close the program down.

"I have recommended that we stop IDES and explore other options, including a potential cloud-based whole-of-government email solution," Queensland Minister for Information Technology Ros Bates said in a statement.

"A cloud-based solution doesn't require a large capital investment, and provides an effective way to manage a commodity-based information technology service," she said.

Bates blamed IDES for the financial difficulties that CITEC is now experiencing, difficulties that have prompted former Federal Treasurer Peter Costello to recommend, in his recent audit of the state's finances, that the organisation, amongst other state-owned entities, be sold off to private interests.

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