Tuesday evening, all eyes were on parliament as the Morrison Government delivered its hotly anticipated ‘Covid recovery’ Budget, with – perhaps unsurprisingly – a significant portion of the digital investment pie slated for jobs creation and business boosting initiatives to drive Australia’s post-pandemic recovery.
Among the centrepieces of Budget 2020, the Government announced a $796 million package over four years for its Digital Business Plan – though, it should be said, new announcements were few and far between, with a significant portion of the Plan’s key initiatives publicised in the lead-up to the Budget’s release. The Plan, an effort to turbocharge Australia’s digital economy, is hoped to “improve business productivity, income growth, and jobs creation through digital adoption”, the Government said.
Among the more noteworthy digital government investments within the Digital Business Plan include:
- $419.9 million over four years to create a “modernised platform” for existing business registers, establishing “a single, accessible and trusted source of business data”.
- $256.6 million over two years to continue development and expansion of Digital Identity system, Govpass, to streamline access to online government services and payments. This includes completion of biometric verification and integration with myGov and legislation to enable the use of digital identity across other levels of Government as well as the private sector.
- $3.6 million over two years to facilitate the adoption of e-invoicing across Government.
Other measures from the Plan include:
- $28.6 million to further progress implementation of the Consumer Data Right (CDR), including the extension of the scheme to the energy sector. The first phase of the CDR, Open Banking, launched in July this year.
- An $11.4 million investment over four years in the Regtech Commercialisation Initiative which moves to streamline Government administration and simplify regulatory compliance through the Business Research and Innovation Initiative.
- Australia’s fintech industry will get a $9.6 million booster over four years to support local start-ups and encourage foreign investment.
- $6.9 million over two years to support industry-led pilots and use cases for blockchain, encouraging broader industry take-up of the technology.
Services Australia and social services
- Services Australia will receive a substantial $539.6 million, including $166.9 million in capital, over four years to complete Tranche Four of its Welfare Payment Infrastructure Transformation (WPIT) program. The funding boost takes WPIT’s total cost to over $1 billion across its nine-year delivery timeline. Tranche Four, which seeks to overhaul the welfare agency’s ageing ICT systems, is hoped to improve Centrelink’s automated claim, assessment, and payment processes. The Government said the measure will achieve estimated savings of $317.4 million over four years.
- The Government’s one-stop-shop citizen services portal, myGov, will receive $22.5 million over two years to sustain current operations and further build out its second generation myGov Beta platform, which launched last week. “This funding will allow myGov to continue to support over 18 million accounts and connect the public to the services of 13 government agencies,” the Government said. Costs will be met from within the existing resources of Services Australia.
- The Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) will receive $25.4 million over four years to deliver on overall digital transformation priorities as well as ICT system upgrades for the Pension Loans Scheme system to improve online claims processing and services.
- As part of a wider Covid-19 jobs support and creation initiative, the Government has allocated $295.9 million over four years to establish a new digital employment services platform. The platform will be “available to all Australians to help them improve their skills, support proactive employer engagement and better connections to job seekers, and help job seekers match and apply for job opportunities”, the Budget paper states.
Health and aged care
- As part of phase two of the Government’s Health Delivery Modernisation program, $116.3 million over four years will be provided for “essential maintenance and… system improvements” for ICT systems delivering Medicare, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and health-related payments.
- $18.6 million will go towards upgrading ICT systems to support quality assurance for Medicare Benefits Schedule telehealth services.
- A portion of a $166.9 million, two-year investment to reform residential aged care will be allocated to replacing its “ageing ICT payment system for residential care”.
- $7.7 million over four years for the DoH to establish a unique device identification system for implanted medical devices, enabling the tracking and tracing of devices for clinical and regulatory actions.
- $6.9 million over two years will go to supporting digital mental health services, including the Government’s mental health gateway Head to Health.
Department of Finance
- $35.6 million will be allocated to further developing the long-awaited GovERP, a whole-of-government shared enterprise resource planning system – a key initiative of the Australian Public Service (APS) Reform agenda.
Australian Electoral Commission (AEC)
- $96.7 million over three years will be invested an expansive modernisation program for AEC’s legacy ICT systems and infrastructure. Funding will go to supporting contract centre modernisation as well as new systems to control the AEC’s election personnel and logistics.
Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC)
- $15.6 million will be provided over four years to establish a Critical Technologies Policy Coordination Office within the DPMC. This also includes enhanced international engagement and an expanded role for the Department of Defence in assessing trends in emerging technology. The funding will seek to enhance the Government’s capability to “identify, assess and address national security related issues for critical technologies”.
- A portion of a $39.2 million earmarked for the DPMC will go towards establishing ICT systems to regulate public sector data sharing and release for the Office of the National Data Commissioner.
Foreign investment framework
- $86.3 million over four years will go towards implementing a new ICT platform to support more effective and efficient foreign investment application processing and compliance activities across Government and a new consolidated Register of Foreign Ownership of Australian Assets.
Australian Digital Health Agency
- $200.0 million will go towards continuing operations and delivery of national digital health strategies, including the My Health Record system.
Department of Veterans Affairs
- $64.1 million will be allocated to support departmental operations and claims processing for rehabilitation, compensation, and income support for veterans and their dependents.
- A portion of this funding will go towards a collaborative scoping study between The Department of Defence and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs to facilitate data sharing, predictive modelling, data analytics technology, and reporting capabilities between the two departments, “helping to deliver better outcomes for serving and former ADF personnel”.
- A portion of a total $101.7 million funding pool for veteran’s mental health support and services will go towards expanding digital mental health capabilities. This includes a pilot of web-based forums for veterans and their families.
- $222.2 million to support the first phase of an ICT modernisation program within the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, expected to improve delivery of export regulatory services to agricultural exporters – an initiative under the government’s JobMaker scheme. This includes streamlined and integrated systems to “reduce the regulatory burden on industry” and improving systems integrity to reduce outages and improve cybersecurity provisions.
- $30.3 million over two years to extend Round One of the Regional Connectivity Program supporting “the delivery of reliable, affordable and innovative digital services and technologies in regional Australia”.
- Under the Government’s JobMaker Plan, $91.6 million, with $1.8 million per year in ongoing, will be allocated over four years to developing a new Apprenticeships Data Management System. The new platform will overhaul the long outmoded Training and Youth Internet Management System.
- As part of JobMaker, $5.2 million over four years will go towards supporting the implementation of the Technology Investment Roadmap. This will see the development of annual Clean Technology Statements to identify priority technologies, and the creation of a Technology Investment Advisory Council.
- Emergency broadcasting services in NSW could get a key boost, with the Federal Government allocating $8 million to trial a Public Safety Mobile Broadband proof-of-concept.
- $4.9 million over two years will be targeted at improving the cyber resilience within the electricity, gas and liquid fuel industries.
- A portion of the $4.7 million funding boost will be allocated towards enhancing the Australian Sports Foundation’s information technology network and cybersecurity functions.
- An undisclosed sum will go towards facilitating secure data storage for Home Affairs, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), the Australian Digital Health Agency and the Australian Communications and Media Authority.
- The nation’s chief science and industrial research agency, the CSIRO, will get $459 million life preserver, as Covid continues to cut into vital revenue streams. Funding will be distributed over four years.
- $7.6 million over three years will also go to the Australian Community Climate and Earth System Simulator (ACCESS), a system used widely by climate researchers.
In other news…
- The NSW Government has announced the launch of its new eTendering service, Supplier Hub. From 20 October, suppliers on the existing NSW eTendering site will be automatically migrated to the new buy.nsw Hub.
- NSW Minister for Customer Service Victor Dominello has also announced a “public cloud by default” policy across government, standardising public cloud principles for all departments and agencies. The new cloud policy papers also project a $4 billion IT spend for the state government this financial year.
- The Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) has opened its annual cybersecurity survey. Results from the survey assist the ASD in improving cybersecurity advice and services that meet the needs of all Commonwealth agencies. The survey is designed to be completed by an organisation’s Chief Information Security Officer (CISO). CISOs should receive a link to the survey via ASD’s cyber.gov.au government portal.
- The Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) has also warned of an “ongoing and widespread” email campaign to spread Emotet malware across Australian industry and public sector agencies, including critical infrastructure providers. Emotet is often hidden in file attachments within emails and allows hackers to access and control devices or computer systems.
- The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) is set to undergo a $12 million digital makeover, with the Australian Government announcing the four-year investment to boost cybersecurity and digitise the TGA’s business systems and infrastructure.
- The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has inked a Managed Network Services (MNS) deal with Optus worth $233.32 million. The deal will see the telco deliver five out of six MNS bundles for the ATO, including servicing all fixed and mobile voice, mobile data including bulk SMS, unified communications and collaboration, contact centre and network management services on behalf of the ATO.
- A new report has found the Federal Government has failed to publicly release a review it commissioned two years ago – which was originally slated for launch six months later – into national arrangements for the protection and management of identity information.
- The NSW Government has announced the opening of a new co-innovation centre in Parramatta – the Wipro-AWS Launch Pad. The centre is designed to “empower Australian businesses to adopt cloud services”. Minister for Jobs, Investment, Tourism and Western Sydney Stuart Ayres, said the centre will “offer in-house technical expertise for businesses as well as a physical studio to help enable seamless cloud adoption and improve business operations”.
- The Federal Government has introduced new rules for Australian departments and agencies when appointing outside consultants or contractors. The new rules apply across the Australian Public Service, requiring agencies to report on the total spend on contracts and consultancies, to be overseen by a specialist panel.
- A review by the Council of Australasian Archives and Records Authorities (CAARA) has questioned the feasibility of individual agencies across Australia and New Zealand archiving their own digital data.
- IP Australia has announced it has made the first phase of its new eServices platform available to all users. Users can now trial and renew trademarks through the platform, with more than 100 trademarks renewed so far, according to the intellectual property registry.
- Public Transport Victoria (PTV) has launched its new-look public transport app, providing more personalised functionality and improved journey planning capabilities, said Minister for Public Transport, Ben Carroll.
- The National Careers Institute, an Australian Government initiative, has launched the first phase of its ‘Your Career’ website, a job search and vocational training facilitation site, offering career management and planning assistance for job seekers.
- NSW’s Department of Customer Service has translated its first piece of regulation into code using an open source digital rules engine. The Government created a machine-readable version of the state’s Community Gaming Regulation 2020on its OpenFisca-based rules-as-code platform.
- VicRoads has launched the final stage of its eTransfers system, allowing buyers and sellers of second-hand vehicles to complete the transfer of ownership online.
- The Australian Government is expanding its Australian Small Business Advisory Service (ASBAS) Digital Solutions program to support an additional 10,000 small businesses in advancing digitisation initiatives. The program offers “low-cost, independent, expert and tailored advice” to small businesses for digital solutions, including websites and eCommerce, digital marketing, online security and data privacy.
- The Queensland Government is partnering with Vaxxas, a “world-class” medical tech company, to develop “needle-free” vaccine kits. It is hoped that this partnership will provide local jobs as well as a boost to the state’s economic recovery following Covid-19.
- This week is World Space Week, running with the theme of “satellites improve life”. The Australian Space Agency encourages all Australians to understand and appreciate the role satellites have in improving our daily lives with the improved communications, entertainment, weather prediction and other crucial data collection.
- The SA Government has partnered with home care service Calvary and private health insurer Medibank to launch the new My Home Hospital program. The program will focus on reducing the need for patients with specific conditions to spend time in hospital, offering it says “hospital level services” at home either face-to-face or through a virtual care centre.
- The CSIRO’s Innovate to Grow program is now open for SME applications. This online learning program is designed to help SMEs develop insights and strategies to “leverage research and development” in order to meet their business needs.
- The NT Government will launch a new Digital Support grants program offering eligible tourism businesses up to $5,000 to improve their online digital booking services in an effort to boost tourism across the Territory.
- Applications for 2021 National Science Week grants are now open. Grants of up to $20,000 dollars will be available for “big picture thinkers”.
- The Australian Government will invest $28.5 million into increasing capacity in Western Australia’s energy sector while focusing on reducing emissions
- The Queensland Government has launched a new fishing app, dubbed Qld Fishing 2.0, which will assist recreational fishers to “better understand and comply with fishing rules and regulations.” The app uses artificial intelligence technology to identify common fish species, promising a high degree of accuracy.