Last week Prime Minister Julia Gillard made it clear in a speech that the government would be counting its pennies in the next budget to drag the budget into surplus, natural disasters or no.
"We will keep a tight rein on spending to return the budget to surplus and keep our economy strong," Gillard said.
"When the private sector was in retreat, the government stepped forward to fill the gap — it was controversial but it was right. Now that the private sector is charging forward, it's time for the government to pull back on spending."
As I've pointed out before, IT is always looked to as a milk cow for cutting costs. The government wants to know if we can automate services, make them more efficient, draw savings from technology. When the cost cutting begins, people ask, how can technology help us? And can we use our technology better so we don't have to spend so much on it?
My question is, how much more do federal IT departments have to give?
They've already been on a savings-finding mission for the Gershon review that has been questioned in some circles, partly since a portion of the money, which was first destined to be ploughed back into new IT projects, was instead put into a wider pot for the greater good.
It's already coordinating its datacentre spend in the hopes of putting a lid on ad hoc costs.
It's also already put volume sourcing into play for Microsoft licences and formed a whole-of-government panel for purchasing desktops.
I'm sure, in the manner of kaizen, there are always more ways to improve. But in a world where IT's role is expanding as it reaches into every part of an organisation, how can IT departments deliver services while their spending is tamped down?
Where will IT look to cut more costs? In areas of innovation such as open government?
In the US, this seems to already be happening. According to Federal News Radio, US government sources have said that its government data sharing site data.gov is going to go dark due to a lack of funding.
Any developers who have been using information to create innovative apps will not be pleased at all.
What if this happened here?
Personally, I doubt that our own data.gov site would get the kick as part of funding cuts. It's too public, it's only just come out of beta and we're not as badly off as the Americans. However, I can imagine that new and innovative projects will need to fight harder for their funds.
And since people, including politicians, often take ubiquitous technology for granted, I can see problems convincing pennies out of tight purses. Especially considering the fact that it has to fight against other more visible opponents such as health and education.