Victoria to spend AU$196m on simplifying state IT services

As part of the state's focus on 'putting people first' for its 2020-21 Budget.

The Victorian government has pledged just shy of AU$196 million to establish Digital Victoria in a bid to centralise and simplify the state's IT services.

"This pandemic has asked us to rely on technology more than ever, requiring the Victorian government's online systems to adapt -- fast. The Victorian Budget 2020-21 will build on these efforts, making it easier, simpler, and faster for Victorians to get the support and services they need online," the government wrote in a press release on Tuesday.

"Digital technology has been pivotal in keeping us connected during the pandemic, but whether it's going online to update your licence or sitting down for an important conference with colleagues, the safety and reliability of this technology is crucial."

As detailed in the state's 2020-21 Budget papers [PDF], AU$30.5 million will be spent this year, with AU$27.2 million the following year, AU$33.9 million in 2022-23, and a final AU$64.5 million earmarked for 2023-24.

Included in the AU$195.9 million kitty is AU$7.5 million for Cyber Safe Victoria.

"To combat the global increase in cyber threats and keep us safe from these types of attacks, the Andrews Labor Government is investing a further AU$7.5 million to bolster the state's cybersecurity and protect our systems from cyber criminals," a press release explained.

AU$5.2 million will be spent on digitising business licensing through Service Victoria. In total, under the Department of Premier and Cabinet's "output measures", Service Victoria will receive AU$19.9 million this year, AU$2.5 million in 2022-23, and AU$3.2 million the following year.

Government regulation will also get a AU$75 million overhaul. The state intends to start with things like allowing Victorians to start a small business or doing a home renovation "quicker, simpler, and more straightforward". 

"The investment will also establish a dedicated team to slash red tape and help businesses to navigate the simplified system," it adds.

Funding has also been provided to develop and operate "free-to-use digital solutions" for businesses to help them comply with coronavirus recordkeeping requirements. This includes a contactless check-in option for contact tracing purposes along with development of a Victorian Government Digital Visitor Registration solution, a Business Register system, and an API that the state touts as enabling fast and secure linkage with the Department of Health and Human Services' contact tracing system.

A total of AU$4.2 million over three years is allocated under the initiative.

See also: COVIDSafe app being used in Victoria to double check manual tracers  

Another main pillar of the Budget is the state's jobs plan, which Premier Daniel Andrews said would include an ambitious target of creating 200,000 new jobs by 2022 and a total of 400,000 by 2025.

The plan includes a AU$64 million digital skills and jobs program for Victorians looking for work, with the focus being to provide them with skills to transition into new careers in digital roles.

It also provides AU$2 billion under a Breakthrough Victoria Fund to drive investment in research, innovation, and the "next great breakthroughs" over the next 10 years and under the Establishing Digital Future Now program, AU$626 million will be provided to support Victoria's transition to a digital economy, which Andrews explained would entail removing more black spots, connecting regional communities, and allowing unemployed Victorians to undertake digital skills training or take part in a digital internship.

"Victorian innovation and digital jobs funding is provided to support productivity‐enhancing technology adaptation by Victorian businesses and to increase workforce supply in digital occupations," the papers said.

Funding of AU$189 million has also been allocated towards promoting business investment in Victoria, including: AU$96 million to establish two venture capital and growth funds to assist businesses that are starting up or expanding and to boost Victoria's venture capital sector; AU$80 million on a package to attract the "best and brightest" international companies to Victoria; and AU$13 million to promote cooperation in research development and commercialisation.

"This will stimulate jobs and innovation and support high-potential Victorian startups to become high-performing businesses," the government wrote.

Following successful SummerTech LIVE pilots, the government will also run "targeted graduate placements" to address future workforce requirements for the digital economy. These initiatives, it said, would support productivity growth and improve employment pathways into digital occupations for young people.

Under the Victoria's Digital Future Now program, "business-grade broadband" will be delivered across suburbs and regional towns to enable participation in the "emerging digital economy". This funding will also be used to eradicate mobile blackspots and improve connectivity in regional Victoria.

A new digital and innovation hub will also be established in Cremorne to accelerate the development of an "urban technology precinct". The hub will provide short digital courses along with industry internships that are aimed at improving digital capability.

Elsewhere in the Budget, the state is making available one-off AU$100,000 grants for rural councils to spend on IT facilities, equipment, and training. AU$2.4 million will also be provided for onsite school technical support services for government schools to ensure technology used by students and teachers are reliable and information technology issues can be promptly addressed. The technology to manage the administration of Victoria's fines system will also be modernised.

The Victorian Water Register will receive some cash to transition to a new technology platform; Voluntary Assisted Dying will receive funding to manage the ongoing implementation of Victoria's Voluntary Assisted Dying laws, including an upgrade of IT systems; and the network and computer server infrastructure required to support and deliver patient-related services such as pathology, diagnostic imaging, and patient management systems will also be upgraded.

An Online Courts Pilot will also be run.

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