Tasmanian government IT fund gets the chop

As part of a raft of budget savings measures, the new Tasmanian government has axed an AU$28 million whole-of-government IT fund.

The Tasmanian government has ditched its AU$28 million IT fund that was originally intended to be used to overhaul department and agency IT across the Apple Isle.

The fund, first announced in the last Labor budget last year, was intended to see money handed to the ICT Policy Board over four years to determine the best investments in overhauling government IT. Some projects suggested at the time to be funded through this program included the integrated government contact centre, budget information management system, criminal justice information management system, emergency despatch system, and student management system.

But after one year, and just AU$4 million used, the IT fund has been axed by the new Liberal government as part of a raft of savings measures designed to save the government AU$203.6 million to improve net debt to AU$355.6 million by the end of June 2017.

The move to axe the fund was criticised by industry body TasICT. CEO, and former Labor candidate Dean Winter said the axing of the fund would end up costing the state's taxpayers more in the long run.

"The government should be identifying and funding projects that support better, more efficient long-term service delivery," he said in a statement.

"By maintaining old legacy systems, government will be stuck with the same cost structures that mean public service delivery is 16 percent more expensive than the Australian average.

"It already costs Tasmania significantly more to deliver public services than other states. That gap won't be breached while the government refuses to make the necessary investments to find efficiencies."

In what was a tight budget, there was approximately AU$10.1 million in IT spending included, with the vast majority, AU$7.5 million, going to replace the legacy Budget Information Management System, as well as AU$2.1 million for the second stage of the state revenue system replacement, and AU$560,000 to complete the Integrated Tasmanian Government Contact Centre.

TasICT was more upbeat about some of the other plans announced by the government yesterday, including a new Go-To-Market Incubator for education and training for local startups, and a new plan to support the development of Tasmania's IT workforce.

"The ICT sector is the fastest growing sector in the Tasmanian economy, and it's important that we're meeting the demand from employers for skilled workers," Winter said. "By 2015, the number of ICT jobs in Australia is expected to reach 350,000, which is double 1999 levels. Yet over that period, ICT enrolments in training and education will have fallen by 55 percent.

"$800,000 for Retail Ready will help to bridge the divide between traditional Tasmanian industries and the ICT sector. That will drive productivity and competitiveness in traditional sectors."