Tuesday, May 14, 2013

IT matters of interest in the 2013/2014 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 budget web site worked fine at 08:20pm and kept working (in 2010 the system failed at 7:53pm, reporting: "HTTP Error 404 - File or directory not found").


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, 2010/2011. The 2011/2013 designed is essentially the same but the quality of implementation appears to have declined slightly. The site is in the same HTML 4.01 Transitional, as the last three  years and has not been changed to XHTML, or HTML 5, as used for newer web sites. The code is clean and efficient.

As happened last year, the home page failed a W3C HTML Markup Validation test, but with an increase from four to fourteen errors. These are minor ones and the same number as last three years.

The home page scored a poor 33% (down from 45% last year) on the W3C mobileOK Checker. This is unfortunate, given the increase in the use of smart phones and tablet computers in the last year. Last year I commented that the size o image files used should be reduced to improve the efficiency of the site, but instead the images files have increased, reducing the usability of the site.

The budget home page failed a aChecker automated accessibility test (WCAG 2.0 Level AA) but with only with five problems which could be easily corrected.  But it is disappointing that with a document as important as the budget these errors exist.

A major improvement this year is that important tables are rendered as HTML, not as blurry image files as in previous years. This make it possible to increase the size of the text for easier reading. Also a table can be simply copied into a word processing document with the layout intact, or into a spreadsheet for extra analysis.
The headings are marked up in HTML has headings, which should make it much easier for assistive technology to interpret. 
The PDF version of the budget overview has doubled in size from last year to 5 Mbytes, but still much smaller than the 16.6Mbytes, the web page quotes. The Budget is released under a Creative Commons BY Attribution 3.0 Australia license, in line with open access government policy (commenced last year).


The budget search service responded promptly. References to "Information Technology" were down from 6 last year to 5 (well below the 15 in 2011/12):
  1. Budget Strategy and Outlook 2013-14 - Budget Paper 1 - Statement 8: Statement of Risks
  2. Budget Strategy and Outlook - Budget Paper No. 1 - Statement 1: Budget Overview - A Plan for Australian Jobs
  3. Budget Measures 2013-14 - Budget Paper No. 2 - Part 2: Expense Measures - Attorney-General's
  4. Budget Measures 2013-14 - Budget Paper No. 2 - Part 2: Expense Measures - Treasury
  5. Budget Measures 2013-14 - Budget Paper No. 2 - Part 2: Expense Measures - Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs

The "National Broadband Network" continues to dominate government thinking on IT, with 11 mentions (but down from 24 last year) in the budget papers.

The Government is "recommitting" to "Remote Indigenous Internet Access", but I could not find an amount of money committed to.

The Government will save $31.2 M over two years by incorporating the functions of the National Health Information Network (NHIN) into the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record (PCEHR) system. Unfortunately this does not represent much of a saving, or benefit to the community. The PCEHR has not delivered a usable e-heath record system and there is no prospect of a workable system being produced, after an expenditure of many hundreds of millions of dollars. The Government could have achieved a larger saving, by canceling the PCEHR.

Comments on past 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
2009 http://blog.tomw.net.au/2009/05/it-matters-of-interest-in-20092010.html
2010 http://blog.tomw.net.au/2010/05/it-matters-of-interest-in-20102011.html
2011 http://blog.tomw.net.au/2011/05/it-matters-of-interest-in-20112012.html
2012 http://blog.tomw.net.au/2012/05/it-matters-of-interest-in-20122013.html


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