Budget: Commonwealth ‘looking broadly’ with technology spend

The budget’s boost to the digital identity program and departmental ICT upgrades and investments have been welcomed by industry and analysts.

The budget investments in the GovPass digital identity program, data security and public technology infrastructure signal that the Commonwealth is “looking broadly” at investments in digital, technology developers and vendors say.

CEO of the Australian Information Industry Association Robert Fitzpatrick said the allocation to digital identity was “very important and targeted,” adding that “the lack of a digital identity has been a handbrake on progress.”

Ellen Derrick, national public sector lead partner at Deloitte, said the budget investment in core infrastructure, such as modernising welfare payments and the Australian Business Register, addressed a “technology debt” and support national service delivery.

Ellen Derrick

The budget allocation for technology such as blockchain, AI and supercomputing would propel digital transformations, she said.

“Overall we’re really pleased to see a significant investment for digital and core technology infrastructure across the budget,” she said. “It’s not just about fixing systems that are falling over.”

GovPass fast-tracked

With the budget’s allocation of $92 million to the Digital Transformation Agency the accelerated roll-out of GovPass will enable citizens to fast-track digital ID verification across government services.

Of the $92 million, this includes $60 million to the Digital Transformation Agency, $25.9 million to the ATO and $5.6 million to the Department of Human Services.

Over the next financial year 100,000 people will participate in a trial enabling them to create a digital identity and lodge a tax file number application online.

“Individuals will be able to prove their identity to a government agency or accredited non-government organisation, and then re-use this proven identity when accessing other government services,” according to the budget papers.

Blockchain study ‘could go a long way’

While the budget contained a modest $700,000 allocation to investigate the potential use of blockchain technology in government services, Mr Fitzpatrick said this could “go a long way” if it was used on a number of different trials at specific agencies or departments.

According to budget papers, the investigation will involve an assessment of the government’s readiness for blockchain technology, followed by the development of solutions to explore the potential uses of blockchain in government.

Tech investments, upgrades

The budget also provided funding to a number of departments to improve or digitise services.

The Department of Home Affairs was allocated $130 million to upgrade its threat management and analytics capabilities.

The government provided $19 million to the Australian Tax Office, the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission to develop a business case for modernising the government’s business registers.

Some $11 million over two years was allocated to the Department of Finance to utilise the New Payments Platform, $316 million was allocated to modernise welfare payments and transactions and $106 million on the health and aged care payments system while $111 million was earmarked for the delivery of digital services to veterans.

Safeguarding data

The budget provided $9 million over four years towards the establishment of a new 24/7 cyber security operations center in Canberra to oversee the parliamentary computer network.

The government also provided $20 million for the implementation of new data governance arrangements including a National Data Commissioner.

The commissioner will oversee an improved government data use framework and develop guidance on data sharing, monitoring and addressing risks around data use.

A National Consumer Data Right will also be established to allow consumers and small to medium business to access and transfer their data between service providers in certain sectors.

Public tech infrastructure

The budget’s $2.4 billion spend on public technology infrastructure includes $140 million towards supercomputers, $41 million to build a new space agency and $225 million to improving satellite and GPS technologies.

A $29.9 million funding boost to “support Australia’s AI and machine learning capability” and $70 million to replace and upgrade Australia’s computing and data capability at the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre were other budget measures.

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