Big ticket computer projects queried

Paul Osborne, AAP Senior Political Writer
(Australian Associated Press)

 

The federal government is weighing up whether 10-year, multi-million-dollar computer projects are value for taxpayers’ money.

More than $6 billion a year is spent on government information and communications technology, and recent failures within the Australian Tax Office and Census have brought to light how IT problems can affect businesses and households.

A Senate committee heard on Tuesday the government’s Digital Transformation Agency is working on advice for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, due mid-year, in relation to all ICT projects over $10 million.

The advice would consider costs, timing and risks of projects.

DCT interim chief executive Nerida O’Loughlin told senators her agency was also looking at “significant ICT bids coming through the budget process”.

The agency was assessing how the departments and agencies planned to take projects to market, what technologies are being used and how the proposals are structured.

“The agency is very keen to make sure that the sort of ‘waterfall approach’ that has been taken on ICT projects, where it’s a big 10-year multi-million-dollar project, is that the best way of delivering some of these projects,” Ms O’Loughlin said.

“Are we not better to chunk it down, do smaller parcels out to market, prototype test, very much in line with the agile methodologies we use in the DTA?”

The ICT committee of cabinet, chaired by Mr Turnbull, met last week to look at some of the proposals being brought forward before the May budget.

The hearing was also told a committee comprising the heads of the biggest government departments is working on a “secure cloud” strategy.

Cloud computer involves using a network of remote servers hosted on the internet to store, manage, and process data, rather than a local server.

The inquiry also heard work was continuing on one of the government’s biggest projects – consolidating all websites into one portal GOV.AU – despite cabinet going cold on the project last year.

Asked whether the project was dead, Ms O’Loughlin said: “I don’t agree it’s a project that has come to an end.”

She said work was continuing on making government websites easier to use and cheaper.

However, Ms O’Loughlin said while there was initial strong interest in the projects, government departments were not enthusiastic about a website that was more focused on providing information than enabling online transactions.

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