Telstra scores $185M Centrelink voice contract

After a six-month delay Centrelink has finally awarded its managed voice services contract to incumbent Telstra in a contract worth $185 million over five years.

The deal covers Centrelink's voice services, call centres and a range of telecommunications-based services ranging from interactive voice response, voice recognition and SMS-based services.

It also covers all voice telephony services at the Department of Family and Community Services (FACS) and CRS Australia at more than 1000 sites across the country.

Centrelink holds the mantle of having Australia's single, largest call centre operation with 26 call centres across the country. The agency's call centre functions play a pivotal role in a variety of ad hoc government campaigns and crisis management capabilities ranging from educating social security recipients to dealing with crises such as the Bali bombing and natural disasters.

The tender award also notably sells the new technologies such as voice recognition to enable customers to better navigate their way through the human services bureaucracy.

One expected winner is voice recognition application vendor Scansoft, which has found a range of its applications deployed to allow students on government benefits to file automated income reports using voice.

Scansoft regional director Peter Chidiac said the announcement "is definitely good news for us" adding that many other government agencies were looking at speech recognition.

One area not covered in the announcement is any possible deployment of VoIP technology or where it would fit into Centrelink's current technology framework.

A spokesman for human services minister Joe Hockey said while the announcement did not include VoIP, it may be looked at by Centrelink as the need arose.

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