Four months later, Govt cloud, IT audit stall


Slow connection as a snail

in brief The new Coalition Government appears to have made little progress so far on enacting several core elements of its centralised IT policy. Late last week, ZDNet reported on several answers which the Department of Finance gave last month (see here and here in PDF format) in response to questions about a promised audit of the Federal Government’s IT spending and trials of cloud computing infrastructure. The media outlet reports (we recommend you click here for the full article):

“The Coalition government’s plans for trials of putting secure government data into the cloud and auditing total government IT spending have yet to get underway, with the Department of Finance indicating that a number of issues need to be worked through.”

The news comes as one of the Federal Government’s most senior technologists has flagged his departure. Late last week, seasoned public servant Glenn Archer resigned from his role as whole of government chief information officer and from the Federal Government, just a year after taking it up as part of the split of the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO). Archer would have been likely to have been involved in both the IT spending audit and cloud computing trial, if they are going ahead.

The Coalition’s IT election policy (which is different from its broadband policy) was released in early September last year.

The document, entitled ‘The Coalition’s Policy for e-Government and the Digital Economy’, is available online in PDF format, and was jointly launched by then-Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Shadow Finance Minister Andrew Robb, as it contained initiatives which would range across both of the pair’s portfolios.

According to a statement issued by the pair in September, the highlights of the document were to be a Coalition Government’s move to streamline the approximately $6 billion a year which the Federal Government spends on ICT solutions. “The Coalition is proposing an aggressive reform agenda to ensure value for money in ICT procurement, transparency of expenditure as well as better services for taxpayers,” the pair wrote. “This is critical if we are to address Australia’s recent and alarming deterioration in global rankings with regard to our digital competitiveness and innovation.”

In the statement, Robb and Turnbull said a Coalition Government would require virtually all Government services and public interactions to be available digitally (as well as in hard-copy)  by 2017 on an opt-in basis; Improve the transparency of Government ICT spending with the establishment of a US-style online ‘dashboard’ so taxpayers can assess the performance and progress of major projects; Require Government agencies to trial next generation tele-presence systems from 2014; And trial an opt-in ‘digital pigeonhole’ from 2014 for the growing number of Australians who want to go ‘paperless’ – a free, secure digital inbox for communication from all levels of Government.

A Coalition Government would also “provide leadership” by encouraging standards in areas such as online identity verification and mobile payments “vital to the growth of the digital economy”; and
encourage Government agencies to use cloud services and operate their IT functions more efficiently.

The policy document itself speaks in broad terms about the Federal Government’s use of technology to drive its operations, but contains little new policy objectives for the Coalition which aren’t already being implemented by the Federal Government.

For example, the Federal Government was already investigating under Labor areas such as big data and its use of cloud computing. The Coalition policy supports such initiatives. It claims the Coalition would “reboot whole of government ICT leadership”, but the policy merely supports mildly expanded powers for the existing Australian Government Information Management Office. Likewise, the Federal Government already makes extensive use of telepresence/videoconferencing systems; this use has been a feature of the Federal Government for much of the past half-decade.