Digital transformation gets budget love

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The Turnbull government is putting new funds into setting up a new cyber security agency as well as modernising the public sector as part of its 2017-18 budget.

Stung by the Census 2016 debacle, the government has flagged an investment of $10.7 million over four years to build a Cyber Security Advisory Office, which will be established by the Digital Transformation Agency.

The agency has been designed to provide a more centralised approach to cybersecurity to mitigate the broader project vulnerabilities across government agencies.

“The CSAO will work with agencies to ensure they are appropriately managing the risks of cyber and other digital vulnerabilities on digital services,” the government said.

Meanwhile, the Department of Finance has been given extra funds to make the Bureau of Meteorology’s IT systems and business processes, which were breached a few years ago, more secure.

The department has been allocated $400,000 over the next four years to conduct a “gateway review process” for the implementation of the security upgrade.

“This will assist the Bureau to continue to provide reliable, ongoing access to weather, climate, water, and oceans information,” the government said.

Cybersecurity isn’t the only thing issue getting some attention with $22.7m allocated in 2017/18 to complete the next stage of development for GovPass.

The digital identity framework, which links to existing document and facial verification services, is designed to provide secure proof of identity for the use of government services online.

Better use of data to modernise the public service is also on the agenda with the government set to invest $350m over three years from 2017/18 in a range of projects to modernise and enhance the productivity of the Australian Public Service (APS).

This measure, which is fully funded from the additional efficiency dividend applied in the 2016/17 Budget, will look to encourage better use of government data in policy development.

“The measure enhances service delivery through the Digital Transformation Agency’s development of whole-of-government platforms, supports the development of digital capability, and further modernises systems to enable greater collaboration across the APS,” the government said.

Funding will also be provided to accelerate the consolidation of shared corporate services arrangements and the modernisation of the administration of business and community grants.

“This will result in an additional 60 agencies consolidating their human resource systems into one of six corporate service hubs. In addition, around 74 per cent of existing grant programs will be delivered via the Community and Business Grants Hubs on behalf of nine agencies,” the government said.

It will also invest $129.6m over three years from 2017/18 in a number of agencies to support their transition to more modern and sustainable operating models. The modernisation drive will see funds allocated to improving policy, programs and service delivery; as well as strengthening workforce capability within the APS.

Specific focus is also being put on analytics through Data Integration Partnership of Australia, which the government will use to enhance analysis of public data to improve policy and program implementation and expenditure.

“Integrating data from across government and providing access via a single entry point will reduce duplication, encourage efficiency, and lead to long-term reform in data collection and use,” the government said.

Funding is also being boosted for CSIRO’s digital research network Data61 to develop a data integration platform to supports law enforcement and regulatory agencies to better detect, prevent and disrupt illicit activities within Australia and overseas.

Meanwhile, the DTA will also develop a federated data exchange platform to cut down on the building and maintenance costs incurred by individual agencies and encourage them to pursue the government’s ‘cloud-first’ policy.

Gartner analyst Dean Lacheca has welcomed the government’s focus and commitment to better service delivery.

“Specifically, the focus on shared whole-of-government platforms, the attempt to breakdown some of the data silos that plague governments around the world through the “Tell Us Once” style of system and federated identity management framework are all good steps towards digital government maturity,” he said.

“The challenge now is to deliver against these commitments.”

He added that the commitment to legacy modernisation was welcome given how much of public sector technology budgets are chewed up by it globally.

“Governments need to pay down technical debt by accelerating modernisation initiatives to allow them to explore alternative sourcing options and to focus on innovation and meeting citizen expectations.”

“Funding to train public sector employees in digital skills is another good step,” Mr Lacheca said.

According to a recent CIO survey by Gartner, lack of skills was seen as the biggest barrier to government agency CIOs achieving their objectives.

The continued push to strengthen the nation’s digital infrastructure and capability has been welcomed by the ICT industry bodies as well.

The Australian Information Industry Association’s chief executive Rob Fitzpatrick said that the government’s commitment to increase technology investment across the public service will lead to better delivery of services to Australians.

“These are smart investments that will enable the adoption of future technologies as government services evolve,” he said.

Australian Computer Society president, Anthony Wong, said the budget has delivered good news for expediting Australia’s transition to a digital and knowledge economy.

“We would see three key pillars to achieving an economy higher up the value chain and one which affords higher paying jobs; these being a strong banking and finance sector, a strong cyber security capability that delivers trust and developing high-level STEM skills in the education system,” he said.

The economic contribution of the internet and digital-enabled economy is forecast to increase to $139 billion by 2020, representing 7.3 per cent of overall GDP in Australia, with some estimating the potential of currently available digital technology to contribute between $140bn and $250bn to Australia’s GDP by 2025.

Mr Wong said that this federal budget has managed to strike a positive note on the fronts that will play part in maximising the potential of the ongoing digital revolution.

“We were pleased to see the investments in the Cyber Security Advisory Office, backing of our fintech sector, and the commitment to improving student outcomes,” Mr Wong said.

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