In the 2018–19 Budget there are new public sector information
and communication technology (ICT) related Budget measures in most portfolios.
The following selected ICT initiatives can be broadly categorised as: cyber security;
whole of government and cross-portfolio; or program-specific.
Following a reported cyber attack on the Bureau of
Meteorology in December 2015, the 2017–18 Budget included an appropriation for
a project to ‘improve the security and resilience of the Bureau of
Meteorology’s ... ICT systems and business processes’.
The exact amount was not published due to commercial-in-confidence
sensitivities. In the 2018–19 Budget, further non-specified funding is
appropriated ‘to continue to improve the Bureau of Meteorology’s ... ICT systems
and observations network infrastructure’.
The Department of Parliamentary Services has been allocated ‘$9.0 million
over four years from 2018–19 (including $0.3 million in capital funding in
2018–19)’ to establish a cyber security operations centre for the parliamentary
A separate Budget
Review brief on cyber policy covers other cyber-related matters, including the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) assuming formal responsibility
for a wider range of cyber security functions and being
established as a statutory agency on 1 July 2018.
Whole of government and cross-portfolio
To accelerate the development of GovPass, the Digital
Transformation Agency (DTA) has been allocated $92.4 million in 2018–19 to
‘work with relevant agencies to ... test the delivery of GovPass across a range
of services’. Of this funding, ‘the Australian Taxation Office [ATO] will
absorb $25.9 million and the Department of Human Services will absorb
$5.6 million’. GovPass is described as:
a key component in the further digital transformation of
Government and supports the Government’s commitment to better and more
accessible digital services.
Individuals will be able to prove their identity to a
government agency or accredited non-government organisation, and then re-use
this proven identity when accessing other government services.
In addition, with $0.7 million from within its existing
resources, in 2018–19 the DTA will ‘investigate areas where blockchain
technology could offer the most value for Government services’.
The DTA will:
Conduct research to understand the current
maturity of blockchain, the readiness for government to adopt the technology
and identify problems that blockchain might be able to solve.
Develop a possible solution for one of the
problems identified in the research, and understand the potential of using
blockchain to support government services.
With funding of $19.3 million in 2018–19, the ATO, the
Department of Industry, Innovation and Science and the Australian Securities
and Investments Commission will develop a business case for modernising the
Government’s business registers. The business case will ‘provide options for
improving how businesses interact with government, and will be considered in
the 2019–20 Budget’.
The Department of Finance will be provided with
$11.3 million over two years from 2018–19 to strengthen the Department’s ‘capacity
to respond to critical priorities and drive productivity improvements across
the Australian Public Service’. The project includes ‘modernising Commonwealth
cash management by utilising the New Payments Platform for fast payments which
is being rolled out across the banking system in Australia’.
The Budget papers note that ‘the Government will provide
$0.3 million to the four largest parliamentary parties to improve the
security of voter information held by those parties’ in the current financial
year (2017–18), and that ‘funding for this measure has already been provided
for by the Government’.
As outlined in a separate Budget
Review brief, the 2018–19 Budget provides a total of $65.1 million in
funding over 2018–22 for the development of significant new data sharing and
In the Human Services portfolio, the Government will provide
‘$316.2 million over four years from 2018–19 to progress Tranche Three of
the Welfare Payment Infrastructure Transformation (WPIT) program [that] will
progressively replace Centrelink’s ageing technology platform’. Efficiencies of
$35.4 million are also expected to be realised over five years from 2017–18.
In the Health portfolio, $106.8 million will be provided over four years from
2018–19 to ‘modernise the health and aged care payments systems’. Visible
improvements here are expected to include ‘increased functionality and
usability of the Medicare Online Application and Medicare App’.
Over four years from 2018–19, the Department of Veterans’
Affairs will receive an additional $111.9 million to ‘continue to
transform and improve veterans’ services’ and the Department of Education and
Training will receive $36.2 million (including $7.6 million in
capital funding in 2018–19) to ‘fund the implementation of a new IT system to
support the compliance and regulatory arrangements for the VET Student Loans
The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority
(APVMA) is allocated $10.1 million over three years from 2018–19 to ‘support
[the APVMA’s] ICT systems and digitise its most important and frequently used
paper files’. The funding is expected to ‘assist the APVMA to become a more
efficient and effective regulator as it relocates to Armidale as part of the
Government’s Decentralisation Agenda’.
The Department of Home Affairs will be provided with
$130.0 million in 2017–18 (including $94.0 million in capital funding)
to improve the Department’s ICT capability, including to ‘upgrade the
Department’s analytics and threat management capabilities.
Monitoring ICT-related projects
ICT-related measures in the 2018–19 Budget add to those
announced in 2016,
(including the $500 million Public
Service Modernisation Fund), and older, ongoing projects.
Despite the increasing number of ICT-related projects and
contracts, there is still no consolidated source where Parliament and citizens
can track the progress of ICT projects.
In May 2017, the Government’s ICT
Procurement Taskforce recommended
‘a public dashboard of significant ICT projects and spending
that will allow the government and public to see the status and outcomes of its
ICT investment decisions’. The Government did not
accept the recommendation for a public-facing dashboard.
In 2013 the Coalition had committed to emulating the example of the USA’s www.itdashboard.gov.
New South Wales, Queensland, and Victoria
already have dashboards.
The DTA monitors all digital and ICT initiatives with a
budget of more than $10 million and not classified as Secret or Top Secret. The
DTA’s first and only disclosure to date was six months ago at a Senate
Estimates hearing. The DTA tabled
a list of 17 projects, but the tabled document is not found by search engines
and is not available at any other location on the internet.
The relevant DTA webpage, last updated in November 2017, does not list the 72
projects in scope for monitoring.
Without a public, comprehensive source of updated
information about specific projects, accountability for progress and spending
is largely dependent on information gleaned from irregular and narrowly
targeted sources such as Australian National Audit Office performance audits
and Senate Estimates hearings.
The budget figures in this brief have been taken from the following
documents unless otherwise sourced: Australian Government, Budget
measures: budget paper no. 2: 2018–19, pp. 69, 89, 100, 110, 111, 135,
162, 166, 167, 182, 186, 190, 201, 203; and Australian Government, Agency
resourcing: budget paper no. 4: 2018–19, pp. 6-7.
For additional discussion of information and communications technology
(ICT) initiatives in the Budget, see: S Easton, ‘Federal
Budget 2018: digital government’, The Mandarin, 8 May 2018; and J
earmarks $2.4bn for tech infrastructure’, itnews, 9 May 2018.
Australian Government, Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: 2017–18, p. 94; C
blamed for ‘massive’ cyber attack on Bureau of Meteorology computer’, ABC
News website, 2 December 2015.
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C), 2017
Independent Intelligence Review, PM&C, Canberra, June 2017, pp.
64–66; H Portillo-Castro, ‘Cyber
policy’, Budget review 2018–19, Research paper series, 2017–18,
Parliamentary Library, Canberra, 2018.
For more on the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) and the Defence
portfolio, see: D Watt, ‘Defence
overview’, Budget review 2018–19, Research paper series, 2017–18,
Parliamentary Library, Canberra, 2018; and C Barker, Intelligence
Services Amendment (Establishment of the Australian Signals Directorate) Bill
2018, Bills digest, 94, 2017–18, Parliamentary Library, Canberra, 2018.
‘Blockchains are a digital technology that combine cryptographic, data
management, networking, and incentive mechanisms to support the checking,
execution, and recording of transactions between parties.’ M Staples et al, Risks
and opportunities for systems using blockchain and smart contracts, Commonwealth
Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Sydney, 2017, p. 2. Blockchain
has been characterised as a ‘disruptive technology’ that presents a challenge
to existing legal regimes. See: K Cheung, ‘Blockchain:
enforcement and regulations’, Internet law bulletin, 20(10), April
2018, p. 181.
Digital Transformation Agency (DTA), ‘Budget
2018‒19 for the DTA’, DTA website, 9 May 2018. In
November 2017, the Government awarded a grant of $2.5 million to the City of
Fremantle in which ‘blockchain technology (distributed ledger) will be used to
establish an integrated power, water and mobility system comprising of
renewable energy generation, battery storage, recycled and rainwater storage
and distribution and an electric vehicle shared ownership trial’. Department of
Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities (DIRDC), ‘Smart
Cities and Suburbs Program’, DIRDC website.
N Horne and P Hamilton, ‘Data sharing and release’, Budget
review 2018–19, Research paper series, 2017–18, Parliamentary Library,
Australian Government, Agency
resourcing: budget paper no. 4: 2018–19, pp. 6-7.
For other decentralisation initiatives in the Budget, see: P Hamilton, ‘Public sector efficiencies, staffing, and administrative arrangements’, Budget review 2018–19, Research paper series, 2017–18,
Parliamentary Library, Canberra, 2018.
For more on the Department of Home Affairs, see Hamilton, ‘Public sector efficiencies, staffing, and administrative arrangements’,
P Hamilton, ‘Selected Government ICT projects’, Budget
review 2016–17, Research paper series, 2015–16, Parliamentary Library,
Canberra, 2016; P Hamilton, ‘Public sector ICT’, Budget
review 2017–18, Research paper series, 2016–17, Parliamentary Library,
Canberra, 2017; and P Hamilton and S Speldewinde, The Public Service Modernisation Fund: a quick guide, Research paper series, 2017-18, updated 14 November 2017.
P Hamilton, ‘Which governments have an online dashboard so the public can monitor
ICT spending and projects?’, Flagpost, Parliamentary Library blog, 30 November 2017.
ICT Procurement Taskforce, Report
of the ICT Procurement Taskforce, DTA, 2017, p. 7.
A Taylor (Assistant Minister for Cities and Digital Transformation), Government
response to report of the ICT Procurement Government response,
Ministerial statement, [September 2017].
A Robb (Shadow Minister for Finance, Deregulation and Debt Reduction) and
M Turnbull (Shadow Minister for Communications and Broadband), Policy
for E-Government and the Digital Economy. Joint media release, 2
September 2013, pp. ; Executive Office of the President,
Office of Management and Budget, ‘itdashboard.gov’.
New South Wales Government, ‘digital.nsw:
Digital government at a glance’; Queensland
Government, ‘ICT dashboard’; Victorian Department of Premier and Cabinet, ‘Victorian
Government ICT dashboard’.
Senate Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee, Official
committee Hansard, 15 November 2017, pp. 42–44.
Senate Finance and Public Administration Committee, Prime Minister and
Cabinet Portfolio, Supplementary Budget Estimates 2017–18, ‘DTA, Information
in relation to current projects undertaken by the Digital Transformation Agency’, tabled document.
DTA, ‘Oversight delivers early insights’, DTA
website, 10 November 2017.
For example: Australian National Audit Office (ANAO), Cybersecurity
follow-up audit, Audit report, 42, 2016–17, ANAO, Canberra, 2017; ANAO,
taxation system outages, Audit
report, 29, 2017–18, ANAO, Canberra, 2018.
All online articles accessed May 2018
For copyright reasons some linked items are only available to members of Parliament.
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