Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Minor Revolution in Australian Government IT

Greetings from CIO City Summit in Sydney. Patrick Callioni opened the event talking about changes to IT in Australian be announced by Lindsay Tanner MP, Minister for Finance and Deregulation at the National Press Club in Canberra tomorrow. However, much of this appeared on the front page of the Financial Review and in other papers this morning, stealing some of his thunder.

I am on at 2pm talking about 2008 being a tipping point for IT to move to thin client/server systems "A Watershed for the Networked Organisation". The of "watershed" is unfortunate, as Sydney is having floods. ;-)

Essentially the revolution is government agencies cooperating and with state and local governments. To some extent at the federal level this will be by more regulation that requests. At the state and local level the federal government will have to rely on good will, as there is little scope for increased funding for state government projects.

Patrick talked about the Australian Government's IT strategies and architectures. These are publicly available, but I suspect many did not take them seriously. He also talked about the shortage of IT people and the need for universities to keep the ability to train during IT downturns. The government also has an IT apprentice scheme.

The Australian Government's web sites will be rationalized and IT spending will be subject to more central control. Some of this could be relatively easy to use and uncontroversial. For example the whole of government search engine seems to work okay. Agencies can customize the look and function of the central facility. Patrick said that there will not be warehouses of centrally purchased computers becoming obsolete before they are issued. The emphasis will be more on rationalization of the back end of systems, with shared systems "Why should agencies have financial systems configured differently, when they are subject to the same financial regulations?".

The government has 850 web sites. One objective is to have an integrated view across government, including state and local government. There will be an online front end for government, for citizens to manage their relations with government. By December 2008, citizens will have the option of an account on Australia.Gov.AU, to give access to services. This will be voluntary and optional. But it will provide a way for citizens to log on once and then do business through multiple agencies. This will then be offered to state and local governments. One service which is likely through the system early on is eTax from the ATO. Later there will be a central message box for messages from government. Australia Post might provide an authentication service for documents: citizens would have Australia Post certify electronic versions of important documents (such as a marriage certificate) as being genuine, so that the electronic copy could be presented to agencies.

Some of this sounds ambitious, in particular working with state and local governments and e-document validation. However, even if AGIMO only manages to integrate government web sites a little more and rationalizes back ends a bit, this will make a significant improvement is services to citizens and some saving in government costs.

ps: I should declare my interest, as I am helping write a report on the future of broadband for AGIMO.

pps: To be green, I caught the tram to the conference at Star City.

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