Tonight at 7:30pm the Federal Budget will be released publicly, and all indications are it's not going to be one where there will be many tech surprises, or if there are, it will be more of a vanishing trick.
Of course, the government will have to make provisions for the National Broadband Network (NBN) as Communications Minister Stephen Conroy's office said when it released the implementation study.
There have also been indications that e-health is going to get a couple of hundred million in the budget. About time too, since a Deloitte study identified the need for over a billion to be invested in e-health in 2008, and a report by the National Health and Hospitals Research council last year called for similar levels of spending.
There could also be money going towards Government 2.0 now that the recommendations in the relevant taskforce's report have mainly been agreed upon. The government's acceptance of another report on public sector reform, which also urges making government data publicly available, lends even more weight to putting money into the area.
However, outside of these three areas, there's been little indication that the budget will deliver a bonanza for many industries, let alone IT. The words Wayne Swan is using to describe the budget include "responsible" and "steady". He talks about "strict" measures so that we can invest in health and superannuation reform.
I can't see this kind of budget putting out money for a large unheralded IT project unless it's desperately needed. In fact, I would think that the "steady" budget might even try and shave away funds from existing projects or business as usual — or will lean on savings made from programs such as the Gershon review. And those saved funds will more likely go towards bread-and-butter government needs such as health rather than tech. (Although a percentage of the Gershon funds has been earmarked for tech uses.)
The government could look to IT as a source of efficiencies in its time of need, of course. As I have noted in the past, IT is often seen as a tool to achieve savings and little else. But these projects also have the capacity to increase spending when they go wrong, and generally require start-up capital. That is exactly what the government doesn't have.