Tuesday, May 12, 2009

IT matters of interest in the 2009/2010 Federal Budget

Just about every year since the Australian Federal Budget was first put on the web, I have done a quick search though the documents to find matters of interest in information technology. This year I tried to access the 2009/2010 budget web site at 9:38pm and got "The server at budget.gov.au is taking too long to respond", unlike last year. It took three attempts for the site to respond.


Each year from 1996 to 2006 the budget web site got better. But by 2007-08 seemed to reached a stable design, also used for 2009/2010. The site is in the same HTML 4.01 Transitional, as last year and has not been changed to XHTML, as used for newer web sites. The code is clean and efficient.

The home page failed a W3C HTML Markup Validation test, with 4 errors (minor ones). The cached version was not compatible with an automated accessibility test, but it seemed likely to pass at Level 1 as last year. The home pages scored a poor 66/100 on the W3C mobileOK Checker.

As with the last two years, important tables in the overview are provided as blurry image files, while the detailed documents have better formatted HTML tables.


The budget search service appeared to be responding slower than in 2008, perhaps due to the excessive size and poorer formatting of the budget documents since last year. References to "Information Technology" are up from 9 last year to 15.


The NBN is the single largest ICT item in the budget. There is also funding for the ABC to create broadband content for the NBN, for health and education using the NBN and for coordinators to help regional communities make use of the NBN.

There are numerous small programs to improve record keeping in government agencies The Audit Office will also have increased budget for more IT audits.

$8.3 million over four years will be spent on a national computer emergency response function within the Australian Government. There is a risk that this will duplicate work in the private sector and the Department of Defence, in the process lowering Australia's e-security, rather than increasing it.

There are some minor ICT budget reductions, with the Department of Finance and Deregulation having its funding reduced "... with streamlining information technology standards and public-private partnerships advice" and the Australian Electoral Commission saving money through closing offices and relying on the Internet and printed material.

There are programs for the higher education sector which are likely to result in increased ICT investment. Having just learnt how to provide university courses via the web, using learning management systems and e-portfolios, I expect I will be kept busy. ;-)

There are some minor climate change related initiatives to help the department deal with information on carbon accounting and web-based calculators and the www.energyrating.gov.au website. An Energy Efficiency Trust will showcase improvements in lighting, ventilation, heating, air conditioning, and computer systems.

Other IT measures include (from:Budget Paper No. 2, Part 3: Capital Measures, Table 3: Capital Measures):

National Broadband Network — implementation and establishment ...
The Government will provide $54.2 million over two years for the implementation and establishment of the National Broadband Network (NBN).

Funding of $53.2 million in 2009-10 will be provided to the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy to conduct an implementation study into the NBN that will examine detailed engineering, commercial and structural issues and report by early 2010. The funding will also support the department in the early implementation of a network in Tasmania, implementation of the regional backbone blackspots program, and development of legislation and a regulatory framework.
The Government will also provide $0.2 million in 2008-09 and $0.9 million in 2009-10 to the Department of Finance and Deregulation to assist in the implementation and establishment of the NBN company, given the department’s role in advising the Minister for Finance and Deregulation as joint shareholder.

Rural and Regional National Broadband Network Initiative — ABC regional broadband hubs ...
The Government will provide $15.3 million over three years to the Australian
Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) to assist regional communities to create local broadband material to complement the roll-out of the National Broadband Network.
Funding will be used to identify and employ local producers to work on cross-media stories and to provide training and equipment for the creation of user-generated content. The ABC will also establish community websites and genre portals through the ABC Local network to develop and host the material, allowing Australians with common interests to talk to one another and share experiences.

Rural and Regional National Broadband Network Initiative — enhanced Digital Regions Initiative ...
The Government will provide $14.0 million over four years to fast-track and enhance
the Digital Regions Initiative. The Digital Regions Initiative will promote
broadband-enabled delivery of health, education and emergency services in regional, rural and remote Australia. The additional funding will allow for a greater number of local broadband enabled projects to be rolled out. The initiative will be fast-tracked by introducing a two-stage assessment process to assist State, Territory and local governments in expediting the assessment of applications.

Rural and Regional National Broadband Network Initiative — rural NBN
coordinators ...
The Government will provide $5.0 million over four years to support up to 12 regional coordinators to help local governments, community organisations and businesses to take up broadband in regional communities. This measure directly supports the implementation of the National Broadband Network — regional backbone blackspots program.

Regional Telecommunications Review Response — Indigenous Communications Program ...
The Government will provide $30.0 million over four years to implement the
Indigenous Communications Program, to provide community phones, basic public internet access facilities and computer training for remote Indigenous communities in partnership with the States and Territories.

E-Security Review ...
The Government will provide $8.3 million over four years (including capital funding of $0.5 million over four years) to the Attorney-General’s Department and the Department of Finance and Deregulation (Finance) to implement the major recommendations of the E-Security Review 2008. The measure will involve the establishment of a national computer emergency response function within the Australian Government, and a review of government internet gateways to reduce them to the minimum number required for operational efficiency and reliability.
Funding for the Attorney-General’s Department includes offsets of $1.2 million over four years to be provided from the department’s component of the Critical Infrastructure Protection program. Funding for Finance includes $0.5 million over four years to be absorbed by the department.

High Court of Australia — additional resourcing ...
The Government will provide funding of $9.0 million over four years (including capital funding of $5.5 million) to allow the High Court of Australia to maintain its general assets and registry services and to improve its security arrangements.
Capital funding will allow the High Court to purchase additional library resources and implement new corporate information technology systems.

An Innovation and Higher Education System for the 21st Century — Student
Income Support — administrative costs ...
The Government will provide $41.1 million over four years for the administrative costs associated with the Student Income Support package, including information technology redesign and communication strategies.

Department of Finance and Deregulation — increased efficiencies ...
The Government will reduce funding for the Department of Finance and Deregulation, with efficiencies to be achieved in several areas including by reducing administrative support provided to the Finance portfolio ministers and other parliamentarians, and streamlining activity relating to information technology standards and public —private partnerships advice.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand — funding for upgrading computer systems ...
The Government will provide $2.9 million over two years (including $0.4 million in capital funding for hardware and software items) to Food Standards Australia New Zealand to fund the development and implementation of two data management and modelling systems to replace the existing systems. The upgrade of the information technology systems will allow Food Standards Australia New Zealand to continue to meet its obligations in assessing the safety of proposed changes to the Australian and New Zealand food supply as well as assessing the risk to the population in food emergencies.

Centrelink — maintenance of online service infrastructure ...
The Government will provide an additional $5.7 million in 2009-10 to maintain the information technology infrastructure that delivers Centrelink’s online customer services.

Child Support Agency — additional funding ...
Costs have also been incurred as a result of the separation of the Child Support Agency’s information technology and corporate services functions from the Australian Taxation Office.

Humanitarian Migration Program — non-refoulement obligations ...
The Government will provide $4.8 million (including capital of $0.2 million for information technology changes) over four years to implement a system of complementary protection for people to whom Australia has non-refoulement (non-return) obligations under international human rights treaties, other than the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.

Systems for People — operational costs ...
The Government will provide $34.8 million in 2009-10 (including capital of
$1.9 million) to the Department of Immigration and Citizenship to support and maintain the Systems for People information technology program.

The program was initiated in 2006 to address limitations in the department’s
information systems identified by the Palmer and Comrie reports. The program aims to develop the department’s information technology systems to improve client service, with particular emphasis on support for decision making and better records management.

Australian National Audit Office — enhanced professional capability ...
The Government will provide $20.1 million over four years (including capital funding of $0.9 million) to increase the ANAO’s resource base. This will allow the ANAO to enhance its auditing activities, including performance audits, information technology audits and other specialist audit activities and increase technical support and quality assurance capability.

Department of Climate Change — information technology network ...
The Government will provide $3.0 million in 2008-09 for the Department of Climate Change to migrate to a secure information technology network and to upgrade storage and backup facilities.

Australian Carbon Trust — establishment ...
The Energy Efficiency Savings Pledge Fund initiative includes funding for the
development of a web-based calculator to estimate savings resulting from energy efficiency activities, and for a public awareness campaign to increase community awareness of the role of voluntary action in the Government’s climate change mitigation strategy.

National Strategy on Energy Efficiency — energy efficiency labelling —
enhancement ...
upgrade or expand consumer and retailer information programs and tools,
including web-based calculators and the www.energyrating.gov.au website.

Australian Carbon Trust — establishment ...
Seed funding of $50.0 million over two years will be provided for the Energy Efficiency Trust to promote private sector engagement in energy efficiency activities. The Energy Efficiency Trust will fund improvements such as more efficient lighting, ventilation, heating and air conditioning, and computer systems, which can be showcased with a view to mainstreaming this activity across the private sector. Upfront investment will be repaid when energy cost savings are realised, creating a revolving fund for further investment.

Participation Taskforce Review — more flexible participation requirements for parents ...
providing more ways of reporting earnings and participation efforts, such as
through telephone and web-based channels.

Australian Electoral Commission — savings measures
The Government will reduce funding for the Australian Electoral Commission ... The internet and printed material will provide alternative
means of providing electoral education.

Comments on previous budgets:

1996 <http://www.anu.edu.au/mail-archives/link/link9608/0096.html>
1997 <http://www.anu.edu.au/mail-archives/link/link9705/0315.html>
1998 <http://www.anu.edu.au/mail-archives/link/link9805/0174.html>
1999 <http://www.anu.edu.au/mail-archives/link/link9905/0265.html>
2000 <http://www.anu.edu.au/mail-archives/link/link0005/0358.html>
2002 <http://www.anu.edu.au/mail-archives/link/link0205/0318.html>
2004 <http://mailman.anu.edu.au/pipermail/link/2004-May/056673.html>
2005 <http://www.archivum.info/link@mailman.anu.edu.au/2005-05/msg00035.html>
2006 <http://mailman.anu.edu.au/pipermail/link/2006-May/066486.html>
2007 <http://www.tomw.net.au/blog/2007/05/it-matters-of-interest-in-20072008.html>
2008 <http://www.tomw.net.au/blog/2008/05/it-matters-of-interest-in-20072008.html>


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