Telstra has scored a $474 million contract with the Department of Human Services (DHS) for managed telecommunications services, the Minister for Human Services Kim Carr has announced.
The contract, originally put to tender by Centrelink at the end of 2010, sees the consolidation of 20 existing telecommunications contracts. It was touted as a five-year agreement worth $500 million, but this has now been scaled back to $474 million in total for the five-year period. The department can extend this by another two years, if it chooses.
Telstra will take on a number of services for DHS, including voice, mobile and data services, as well as providing free mobile calls from Telstra phones to Centrelink hotlines. The contract will see much of the department's telecommunications infrastructure refreshed, to improve the services provided to the public.
The department's existing network will be replaced with a backbone of collaborative network providing IP telephony services, IP call-centre services and video conferencing for the 40,000 staff across Australia.
"Modernising our technology will allow all calls, email, SMS and other multimedia contacts to be automatically distributed through a central system across the network to the right staff with the right skills to help," Carr said.
"And new and improved capabilities, such as voice recording, voice biometrics and video conferencing will help department staff interact with the community in more convenient ways."
DHS will implement a centralised scheduling system to coordinate staff across the country to deal with customer inquiries that come in through various channels, including phone, online and social media.
Telstra will begin to transition the department across to the new telecommunications platform over the next 18 months. Carr said that the agreement was one of the benefits that the government was aiming for when consolidating Medicare, Centrelink and the Child Services Agency into DHS.
"As the department's first birthday on 1 July approaches, we're reminded of how far we've come — eliminating waste and duplication," he said in a statement.
Telstra's enterprise and government group managing director Paul Geason said that the integrated platform will not only save the government money, but will also allow for better communication across the agencies in the department.
"The new network will leverage continuous advances in Telstra's Next IP network, providing the advanced security, reliability and low latency needed by the department and its master programs delivering cost efficiencies and cost benefits," Geason said in a statement.
"In the current economic climate, agencies are eager to deliver high-value, efficient solutions to address the expectations of the Australian public. Telstra understands that, and, as in the case of DHS, stands ready to help as a trusted partner."
Negotiations for the agreement were lengthy, outlasting the reign of former DHS CIO John Wadeson, and the arrival of new CIO Gary Sterrenberg.