ABS taps Accenture for $20m data capture transformation

Contract forms part of the ABS's massive technology transformation program

The Australian Bureau of Statistics has awarded a $19.9 million data acquisition contract to Accenture.

The one-year contract is intended to help make more efficient the collection and analysis of data by the ABS and forms part of the agency’s $257 million transformation program, which began in 2015. Under the contract, Accenture will help put in place tools to improve digital collection of data, boost automation and reduce manual handling.

“Accenture will enable the ABS to issue statistical products more affordably, efficiently and with ICT stability,” deputy Australian statistician of the ABS Statistical Business Transformation Group, Trevor Sutton, said in a statement

“Ultimately ensuring our long term sustainability and statistical contribution to all Australians,” Mr Sutton said.”

Installation and testing of the new systems are due to be completed by December next year, ahead of being put into production in 2018.

As well as preparing for the use of smart e-forms for data capture, infrastructure priorities earmarked for 2016-17 by the ABS as part of its transformation program include implementing a new enterprise data warehouse and metadata repository and delivering security and identity access management infrastructure,.

The ABS transformation program will shift IT to an enterprise-wide approach. Around a third of the agency’s applications have been classed as unreliable and one in six of them are no longer supported by the vendor, according to comments made last year by Australian Statistician David Kalisch.

“While the systems refresh is taking place, the ABS will continue to have fragile, ageing statistical and collection systems, with heightened risk to Australia's key statistics over the next few years,” Kalisch said earlier this month at a Senate Estimates hearing. “We are putting additional effort on managing our statistical risks in this context.”

Last month, the Community and Public Sector Union said in a submission to the inquiry examining the 2016 Census that IT problems at the ABS had been described as “crippling” by staff there. A survey of CPSU members at the ABS found 83 per cent had knowledge of ICT and tech issues.

The 2016 Census debacle is currently the subject of a Senate inquiry, with the ABS, IBM and Nextgen disagreeing as to who is ultimately responsible for the site going offline on Census night.

Kalisch told Senate Estimates that the problems with the Census website had incurred additional costs of around $20 million and that the ABS anticipated “possibly spending another $10 million”.

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