Govt goes for gold and silver at productivity awards

Efficiency and service benefits that information technology can bring when implemented well was acknowledged at the recent 15th Annual Government Technology Productivity Awards in Canberra last week. A raft of local, State and Federal Government authorities were honoured at Parliament House, Canberra with Silver and Gold awards for a diversity of projects. The range covered fitting out street-sweeping trucks with digital cameras to streamlining land valuation surveys to an expert system which helps doctors optimise the timing and dosage of children's vaccinations.

From the health sector, the South Western Sydney Area Health Services, information service department, grabbed a Gold gong for its Cerner HNA Millennium Patient Administration System. On accepting the award, project manager Olivia deSousa said the system was now in five major hospitals, has some 4000 users and replaces one that had been toiling since 1984. The service will now support implementation at five other Area Health Services and is working on a unique patient identifier facility. The vendor associated with this project was Cerner.

Gold Award winners also included the Western Australia Department of Land Administrative (DOLA) for its Smart Register and Back Capture project, accepted by acting CEO Grahame Searle. The Department is converting the WA's 883,000 paper land titles to a Smart Register digital title system in a step towards the long-term aim of full electronic conveyancing. A key element was ‘back-capturing' the information from paper titles at the rate of 3050 titles a day with 99.964 percent accuracy. Searle noted that title searches could now be done in 10 seconds. HBA was the key vendor associated with this project.

Other Gold winners were the Federal Department of Finance and Administration for its Endorsed Supplier Arrangement Management Information System (Mark II), the City of Cockburn, WA, for GIS and Web Mapping, the Commonwealth Department of Education, Training And Youth Affairs (DETYA) jointly with the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs (DIMA) for the inhouse-developed Electronic Confirmation of Enrolment for international students. This system is geared towards the education services export industry that was worth $3.7 billion in year 2000. It provides a register of all courses available in Australia, a unique coded Confirmation of Enrolment to support Student Visa applications, and facilitates information sharing by the two departments to reduce the risk of fraudulent use of the Student Visa system.

These two departments also picked up a Gold award for the Training and Youth Internet Management System, which was built for the New Apprenticeship Scheme and currently serves 430,000 apprentices and 164,000 employers.

Another land agency, the land services group (LSG) of the SA Department of Administrative and Information Services, won a Gold award for its Imaging Replacement Project. Responsible for land titling, boundary security, and an ‘impartial' property valuation service, LSG has replaced outdated systems installed in 1991. The new system is said to be able to handle 200,000 retrievals a month, which is 10 times the current demand. The award was accepted by Steve Wilden, manager divisional services, LSG. HBA was also the key vendor associated with this project.

Another SA Gold winner was the Department of Human Services for its Integrated Community Services on a Multiservice Campus project. This involved integrating the information services of more than 30 agencies, and was accepted by Joanne McQuin, manager community systems, information management services branch. Vendors associated with this project include EDS Australia and Protech Australasia.

Other Gold winners were the Tasmanian Department of Treasury and Finance for its Integrated Budget Management and Financial Reporting project, and the Victorian Department of State And Regional Development for Vic Export, an interactive web site to provide businesses with information on export-related subjects.

Also winning a Gold award was the South Australian Department of Administration and Information Services for the Government Radio Network, accepted by project director Ken Patterson. This network covers an area of 226,000 square kilometres which includes 95 per cent of the population. Before the implementation of this project, there were 28 separate ‘different and ageing' radio systems in use. Vendors associated with the GRN included Telstra, Link Telecommunications, Glenayre and Motorola.

The City of Whittlesea picked up a Gold award for its Video Mapping for Property Valuations project, a system that saw digital cameras mounted on streetsweeping vehicles. These trucks, which visit every sealed road in the municipality every 52 days, record stills of each of the 37,000 rateable properties. Previously, four valuers spent six months, every two years, updating their valuations. The new system is estimated to save at least $40,000 a year; rate notices are expected to be more accurate based on more regular valuations. Associated vendors included Clear Security and ESRI Australia.

The South Australian Environment Protection Agency won Gold for its Complaints and Reports of Environmental Significance (CARES) management system. CARES allows the public to phone the EPA or local council to report incidents or to lodge a complaint. Such calls are recorded and routed throughout the system so that the most appropriate organisation can take action. This was accepted by Nicholas Newland, executive director of the EPA. Vendors involved in this project were Intec Consulting Group, SUN, and EDS, Microsoft and Oracle.

Penrith City Council, NSW, claimed a Silver award for its Business Entry Point -- Online Development Building/Development Application System. Accepting the award, deputy mayor Jacqui Greenow said builders, developers and ratepayers can now lodge development applications online, and that this initiative brought administrative savings of some 11 per cent to the council. The associated vendor is Ortex International.

Another local government Silver award recipient was the City of Whittlesea, Victoria, for its Foodsmart online expert system which allows food vendors to submit their Food Safety Programs as required under the Victorian Food Act 1997. This project is being extended state wide and expected to bring savings of $4 million annually to business and $1 million administrative savings to LGAs (local government authorities). Its automated Q&A format is said to allow the required plans to be completed in one to three hours, instead of the 20-30 hours the job previously required. The award was accepted by Neill Hocking, director of organisational development, City of Whittlesea. The associated vendors were Online Australasia, Pixeltech Design and Culinary Solutions Australia.

Another LGA winner was the South Gippsland Shire Council for implementation of the Personal Work Area, accepted by Richard Lawson, manager of information systems. This in-house project was based on Microsoft's Digital Dashboard.

The South Australian Department of Human Services won a Silver award for ImmCalc, a system that helps doctors calculate the optimal timing and dosage of children's vaccinations. This expert system was developed inhouse for only $9000 by the Department's communicable disease control and community services systems branches.

The Tasmanian Department of Infrastructure Energy and Resources won Silver for its Project Liaison Unit. This unit made good use of the Internet, intranet, CD, radio and remotely-controlled electronic signboards to keep people informed about road and bridge infrastructure projects throughout the state.

The Victorian Department of Human Services also won a Silver award for e-Forms project to put online the many forms associated with the Department's responsibilities in public housing, people with disabilities, family support, child protection, juvenile justice, aged care and public health. Vendor was Groupware Consulting working with Lotus Notes, Domino Web Servers & Lotus Enterprise Integrator.

Another Silver award winner was the Commonwealth Ombudsman for its Combi-Case Management System, developed with help from The Distillery. The Federal Department of Employment and Workplace Relations won Silver for the Australian Workplace portal, which went on line in 2001 to provide public access to consolidated whole-of-government information on employment, careers, training, labour market information, working conditions and government assistance. It houses several leading employment Web sites, including JobSearch, Careers, VolunteerSearch and Wagenet. The Department's Employment Systems Branch did most of the development inhouse with RecruitASP contributing work to the JobSearch site.

David Beynon travelled to Canberra for the awards presentation as a guest of HBA.

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