ICT investment under the Victorian Government’s 2012-13 budget will concentrate on boosting the state’s manufacturing industry, funding the Myki e-ticketing system, e-health initiatives and upgrades to emergency service systems.
According to the Victorian Treasurer, Kim Wells, the budget — aimed at reining in expenditure while growing revenues — will provide “additional support for business-to-business networks to assist with the sharing of knowledge, information and technology.”
The support is particularly focused on Victoria’s manufacturing sector with a number of major investments aimed at stimulating innovation and research, as well as greater collaboration between manufacturing companies based in the state.
Under the budget, research and innovation will be aided by investment of $26 million across the four years to 2015-16 to the Australian Synchrotron. The funding complements $69 million in federal funding announced in March. The synchrotron generates intense light beams that are a million times brighter than the sun to assist scientists in researching medical, agricultural, engineering and other innovations.
According to the budget, the funding contributes to the Department of Business and Innovation’s Innovation and Technology output. “The Australian Synchrotron will continue to provide technologies that can be used to support innovation and deliver new products and services across industries and sectors,” the budget paper reads.
Some $5 million under the budget will also be provided to fund ‘innovation vouchers’ to increase business-based collaboration and innovation activities by promoting the uptake of new skills. The vouchers will also encourage business to make use of the state’s science and research capabilities.
In addition, $24.8 million will be allocated in the four years to 2015-16 for the investment in manufacturing technology to support the state’s manufacturing industry. The funding will “provide individual enterprise assistance to enable companies to purchase new and transformative technologies to improve productivity across the Victorian manufacturing sector,” according to the budget.
‘Manufacturing productivity networks’ will receive $7.5 million across the four years to 2015-16. According to the budget, these networks will encourage “productivity enhancing activities such as increasing collaboration between manufacturers and research organisations, integrating supply chains and supporting the take up of innovation and new technology.”
New inventions and innovations that have emerged from the government’s science and technology programs will also be showcased through $0.3 million in funding across 2012-13 to 2014-15. $4.8 million will be allocated over the same period for various fellowships and mentorships aimed at increasing and rewarding research and innovation.
In the area of transport, Victoria’s troubled myki e-ticketing system will receive $54.7 million in 2012-13 and $9 million in 2013-14. The project had received $42.8 million in the 2011-12 budget. According to the budget, the state’s transition to the myki ticketing system will be completed following the extensive review undertaken by independent experts in 2011. This review has led to a re-scoping of the project and a number of system changes.
Premier Ted Baillieu, had, in opposition last year, dubbed myki "the most useless piece of plastic in Australia". As at June 2011, the myki project was $350 million over budget and had still not been fully implemented, three years after its original due date.
In the area of health, the government will allocate $100 million across the four years to 2015-16 to fund the Victorian Innovation, E-Health and Communications Technology . According to the budget, the fund supports Victorian Public Health Services information communication technology projects, including system and software upgrades and installations.
The state will also contribute $16.6 million across the two years to 2013-14 to help fund the National E-Health Transition Authority's core operations. The authority is overseeing major e-health projects such as the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record (PCEHR) project.
In the area of police and justice, the budget will allocated $20.4 million across the four years to 2015-16 to upgrade the Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority’s computer aided dispatch system. The funding will also allow the Victorian State Emergency Service to “interface and integrate” into incident control centres to improve multi-agency responses to emergency events.
In the area of liquor control reform, $1 million will be allocated for information technology upgrades to support the introduction of a five star rating and demerit points system to reward responsible liquor licensees.
Commenting on the degree of ICT investment in the budget, Ovum research director Steve Hodgkinson, said that in contrast to the 2011-12 budget this year’s offered a glimmer of hope.
“The Baillieu Government’s first budget last year was an IT shocker, with the funding tap for new IT investment turned firmly off in favour of an extensive program of election commitments,” he said in a statement.
“The crisis of confidence in IT engendered by the Ombudsman’s report and seeming inability of any of the major IT projects to ‘come good’ didn’t bode well for IT investment prospects.”
Hodgkinson also added that the $258 million in new investment would also see $27 million allocated to the Department of Sustainability & Environment for making fire risk mapping data available free of charge and for a range of water modelling and management systems. Further asset funding of $32.5 million would also be allocated to completion of the Metropolitan Train Safety Communications System, as well as a further $50 million has been allocated to continuation of the Metcard ticketing system in parallel with Myki.
“While perhaps better than expected, the Budget nonetheless provides slim pickings for the IT industry in terms of substantial new projects,” he said. “Overall, the government has spread $4.1b of investment across hundreds of new policy and service delivery initiatives … some of which will no doubt pull through some IT projects … but this is in exchange for savings expectations of $1b to be achieved by cuts to other programs and productivity improvements.
“The IT investment agenda for the next few years will thus very much be driven by the need to extend the life of existing assets and systems while finding ways to fund productivity boosting IT investments from within existing department and agency appropriations.”