IT for health sector big winner in NSW budget

Information technology was one of the winners in the NSW Government's 2001-2002 budget, in stark contrast to the recent Federal Government budget.

The Carr Government announced plans to spend more than $46 million on new technologies and electronic service delivery products over the coming year.

IT initiatives for the health sector was the biggest winner, including $19 million for the Government's electronic health record project and $82 million over five years ($9 million this year) so health administrators can access patient records electronically; there was also a $4 million boost for the use of telehealth services by rural doctors.

The NSW Government announced earlier this year that its system of linked electronic health records (EHRs) would be in operation within two years. The Government said at the time that the first stage of the system was expected to start later this year.

The Government also promised $32 million ($8 million this year) to cut business paperwork by putting business licensing online.

Information Technology Minister Kim Yeadon said the state's biggest ever technology budget would keep NSW at the forefront of the new knowledge economy.

He said additional funds would also boost access to information technology for rural NSW. Among several initiatives announced, $340,000 was allocated to set up partnerships with the Government Network Service to trial innovative telecommunications services for rural and regional NSW.

The government also promised more money ($1.3 million) towards the upgrade of the capacity and coverage of the Government Radio Network, which is used by the state's emergency services. Currently the network is up for contract with plans for a possible move to digital technology.

The NSW Police Service also scored highly in the budget, with a $66 million capital allocation to fund state-of-the-art technology.

NSW Treasurer Michael Egan said in his budget speech that the technology would "transform every operational police car into a virtual police station, giving officers instant access to police intelligence anywhere, anytime".

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