Govt ICT ramps up change post Gershon: federal CIO

$100 million in savings from 53 agencies identified

The Australian government's ICT advisory body has had a busy six months pushing through recommendations of last year's Gershon report, and is poised to adopt more advanced technologies around Web 2.0, security, information sharing and green IT, according to federal government CIO Ann Steward.

Steward said the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) has taken on a broad array of activities in response to the government's acceptance of the Gershon review, including an "exciting array" of work that doesn't get promoted.

"We are looking at Web 2.0 technologies so watch this space at it will be a focus centre in the future," Steward said.

"There is also a major initiative around e-security between AGIMO, the Attorney General's department and the Defence Signals Directorate. In particular around the reduction in Internet gateways and improving the skills base needed to support needs."

The ICT reform agenda includes 39 "enabling projects" as part of the work with an "aggressive timetable" of 10 projects delivered by June this year.

Speaking at this year's CeBit e-Government conference in Sydney, Steward said 10 have already been delivered and five more will be complete by the end of June and a number more are "well advanced".

"We want to ensure we can have the flexibility to expand and contract our needs and are looking at that at a holistic level. We have a picture of what that looks like now which his important, particularly when you have data interchange between agencies."

Phase one of "business as usual" initiative has concluded, which identified more than $100 million in savings from 53 agencies. More than half of the savings will be ploughed back into ICT projects.

"I'm often asked if there will be more money in the budget for ICT, but the government continues to have a strong commitment to the value of technology for its initiatives and is spending significant amounts of money, including the NBN," Steward said, adding AGIMO is looking into how agencies can better utilise the value of broadband for government services.

Steward also pledged greater transparency in how agencies use IT to ensure it is "using IT in the best way we can" and said key areas of activity relate to the way in which government measures ICT.

Another focus area is green IT, which Steward said is now has "well established themes" and is an important component in the reform agenda.

"Part of that in the first instance was to identify green quick wins," she said. "We have identified a series of those, like automatic shutdown of desktops, static screensavers, and guidance for agencies regarding power use, particularly around datacentres."

AGIMO is also drawing up a green procurement kit and is inviting agencies to contribute to it. The target for its release is the first quarter next year.

The green IT initiative also extends to sustainability whereby AGIMO is now focusing not only on selling products to government, but the full lifecycle of the product and how it can be better managed.

How government agencies engage with industry is also under review, including how agencies can put more "early thinking" out to industry to represent it ICT support and sales needs.

"We have a heavy reliance in government on robust technology and moving more services online and as we store more data we need more sound technology so datacentre technology is a cornerstone to that," Steward said. "Overall energy footprint, skills, communications links and the type of storage required."

"And we are looking at a variety of environments and are not predisposed to building our own or having one supplier. There are major government entities around Australia and more than 60 entities engage with us to help inform us.

"Meetings [that] occurred through March and April [have] helped "validate our own thinking" and was "encouraging to know we have had sound thinking in government".

Skills management an ongoing interest

Steward said agencies need to have sound plans in place for the ICT workforce, and a recent apprenticeship program has worked well.

"We need to have the skill set continuity," she said. "We know there has been a decline in the number of new entrants, but there has been a turning of the curve. They may not have ICT as a major, but they may be able to work in technical areas so we will have opportunities for people to learn and apply skills."

Recent reductions in ICT contractors to government is about "rebalancing" requirements, according to Steward, and agencies will still need specialist contract resources.

"We will still need contractors over time to meet timeframes, but we can still promote goverment as a great place to work."

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Tags green ITWeb 2.0Gershon Reportcebitfederal government

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