ICT in the 2011-2012 Federal Budget

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011 @ 11:11AM

As someone who has been interested in technology for many years, I thought it would be interesting to do a bit of an overview of programs in the 2011-2012 Federal Budget that relate to technology and to our capacity as a nation to leverage the benefits and opportunities presented in the digital age, along with a few program updates.

Below is a short introductory video along with notes about additional initiatives, reference details and online links for you to look into for yourself.

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Introduction Video Transcript

This Labor budget shows that ICT touches everything.

Whether it’s through the delivery of our Government services online in our investment in Gov 2.0, right through to how we invest in the science and research of the future, ICT touches everything.

It’s across a range of portfolios and I’m really pleased to be able to present this summary of a range of ICT initiatives in the 2011-2012 Federal Budget.

It’s all underpinned of course by our significant and I think wonderful investment in the National Broadband Network. Many of our ICT strengths will be further strengthened and underpinned by a National Broadband Network.

For me, the range of initiatives that are looking at the applied use of technologies that will be strong and most effective in a high bandwidth network just shows that we’re future orientated, thinking about what comes next and how to really leverage those economic and social benefits that come with a universal higher bandwidth environment here in Australia.

It well serve us well, into the future, and I’m pleased that we’re making some very clever investments now to make the most of it.

There are so many initiatives in this year’s budget relating to IT. I’m going to try and provide the links so you can get a good idea of the range of budget programs, budget initiatives that are being funded and then you can find your own way through the links.

Additional Introduction Information

Minister Gary Gray gave a speech to CeBIT 2011 where he outlined the ICT vision for Australia including the $1 billion in additional ICT investment over four years. The Minister also spoke about how Australia has consistently ranked among the top ten nations in e-Government in a number of international surveys over many years. http://www.smos.gov.au/speeches/2011/sp_010611.html

“As recently as 2010 Australia was ranked:

  • second in e-participation in both the United Nations’ e-Government Survey and the World Economic Forum Global IT Report;
  • fifth in online service delivery in the World Economic Forum Global IT Report; and
  • eighth in overall e-Government in the United Nations e-Government Survey. “

It would also be well worth reading the National Digital Economy Strategy (NDES) which outlines the vision for Australia to realise the benefits of the NBN and position Australia as a leading digital economy by 2020. The Strategy’s eight goals are to:

http://www.nbn.gov.au/the-vision/digitaleconomystrategy/

eHealth

It’s important to note that eHealth is a significant flagship where one of the best ways we can reduce the overall cost of service delivery and get proper health services to people in rural and remote areas is to invest in effective eHealth services.

Obviously with a National Broadband Network in place, the availability of eHealth services becomes a reality for all Australians.

Further information on the Government eHealth strategy is available at http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/eHealth

$14.4 million over five years has been allocated to help establish a single mental health online portal to enable people to easily identify and access services, help provide online training and support to GPs and other health professionals who need it. (Budget Paper No 2, p232)

The mental health online portal is part of a $2.2 billion mental health reform package over 5 years. Full details are at http://www.health.gov.au/internet/budget/publishing.nsf/Content/budget2011-hmedia02.htm

Gov 2.0, service delivery and citizen engagement

Citizen Centric Services is another area I’m particularly passionate about. As many people know it constitutes one of the three pillars of Open Government that I’ve talked about many times now. $157.6 million has been allocated over four years to enhance and develop ICTs that gives customers the choice to manage their Centrelink, Medicare Australia and Child Support Agency accounts and transactions online. (Budget Paper No 2, p251)

This is a fantastic initiative and the Department of Human Services will work closely with the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner to ensure that there are adequate levels of controls and choice by customers including how they use their own information.

This includes the (DHS) Tell Us Once initiative. So, once citizens establish a relationship with the Department of Human Services, they don’t have to re-establish it every time they want to liaise, or communicate or transact online.

There’s $2.3 million dollars on the Department of Finance and Deregulation. This is to investigate and test ways to improve individuals ease of use and access to government services online. It includes a Tell Us Once initiative (Improving Access to Australian Govt Services), but looks at a whole of government approach and how to make online government service access more efficient and more compelling for citizens to use. (Budget Paper No 2, p200)

$373.6 million over four years to integrate the ICT infrastructure of Medicare Australia, the Child Support Agency and Centrelink. This will also generate savings, so it’s a measure that helps us organise and sort out the backend of the ICT infrastructure to make these things happen at the frontend for citizens. (Budget Paper No 2, p255)

This integration project will generate savings of $106.8m across the portfolio.

Another related initiative by DHS is $13m over four years to improve the design and delivery of human services based on consultation, feedback and testing by the users of those services as well as the broader community. (Budget Paper No 2, p254)

Another really important initiative is the myregion website. There is $4.2 million, to establish the myregion website. A great way for people find out information about their own communities. It certainly delivers on our commitment to regional Australia, and will allow people to find out what they want to know about their region.

The wonderful thing about the MyRegion website, is that if you want to know where a government service is located, whether it’s a Medicare office or Centrelink office or anything like that. The MyRegion website will be of great assistance. I think there will be a lot of interest in it and those who have got the bug with geospatial data and like to be able to search for things on a map, MyRegion will be for you. (Budget Paper No 2, p291)

I’m really pleased to report that we have funded a particular initiative, there’s $4 million using the NBN to provide legal services to people in rural areas and regional areas. (Budget Paper No 2, p103)

You can read about more Gov 2.0 initiatives happening in Australia in the Government 2.0 Register, run by AGIMO.

Culture, connectivity and security

I’m really pleased about our announcement for funding for community broadcasting. $12.5 million, again over four years for community broadcasting to increase content for ethnic, Indigenous, radio for the print handicapped broadcasting, and to establish a new community radio content development fund. (Budget Paper No 2, p111)

An important one, given we’ve got troops serving overseas, is $19.9 million to help improve Internet access for our Australian Defence Forces. (Budget Paper No 2, p127)

Other digital media initiatives include $376.5m over 4 years to facilitate switch to digital television, consistent with commitment to complete digital television switchover by the end of 2013. (Budget Paper No 2, p 112) & $8.3m to support auctioning spectrum in the 700MHz and 2.5GHz bands and preparation work. (Budget Paper No 2, p118)

From an arts and culture perspective there are several initiatives announced in the budget that will support elements of the IT and Creative Industries in Australia.

  • $589k from the Festivals Australia program for 32 community-based festivals using dance, theatre, puppetry, sculpture, weaving, drumming, multimedia projections, filmmaking and interactive light installations.
    http://www.minister.regional.gov.au/sc/releases/2011/may/sc073_2011.aspx
  • $1 million for national cultural institutions to develop and tour exhibitions across Australia, including to regional areas.
    http://www.minister.regional.gov.au/sc/releases/2011/may/sc072_2011.aspx
  • $10 million over five years to support new and upcoming artists by funding up to 150 additional artistic works, presentations and fellowships.
    http://www.minister.regional.gov.au/sc/releases/2011/may/sc057_2011.aspx
  • $15.2 million was announced in April 2011 to fund National Indigenous Television (NITV) in 2011-12 and $1.5 million was earmarked specifically for content development and new media activities in Indigenous broadcasting and media. Also $360,000 was allocated for 2010–11 to enable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists and art workers to develop professional skills that will enhance employment opportunities and help strengthen the industry.
    http://www.minister.regional.gov.au/sc/releases/2011/may/sc055_2011.aspx
    http://www.minister.regional.gov.au/sc/releases/2011/april/sc046_2011.aspx
  • $56 million support package for the film and television industry including:
    • lowering the eligibility threshold for the Producer Offset eligibility for feature films, television and online programs from $1 million to $500,000 to assist the next generation of producers,
    • an increase to the Post, Digital and Visual Effects (PDV) Offset to 30 per cent of qualifying Australian PDV expenditure worth $8 million over four years. This will make Australian PDV service providers more competitive in the international marketplace,
    • a greater number of production expenses can qualify as expenditure under the Producer, Location and PDV Offsets,
    • projects under $500,000 will benefit from new additional direct funding from Screen Australia. This will greatly reduce the administrative burden and costs to producers.

http://www.minister.regional.gov.au/sc/releases/2011/may/sc056_2011.aspx

It is worth noting that Adelaide based company “Rising Sun Pictures” picked up an Academy Award for technical achievement because of its production work on international cinema (including the Harry Potter blockbusters).
http://www.minister.regional.gov.au/sc/speeches/2011/CS05.aspx

Finally in the area of security, Attorney-General Robert McClelland, Minister for Defence Stephen Smith and Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy Stephen Conroy announced they are putting together a comprehensive Cyber White Paper due to be released in the first half of 2012.

Minister McClelland did a Ministerial Statement for Cyber Security Awareness Week which has information about current cyber security initiatives.

There is continuing support for the Government’s $125.8 million Cybersafety Plan launched in 2008, a comprehensive strategy to combat online risks to children and help parents and educators protect children from inappropriate material. Further information on the Government’s Cybersafety Plan can be found at http://www.dbcde.gov.au/online_safety_and_security/cybersafety_plan

Under the Plan, the Government established a range of advisory groups to ensure world’s best practice when it comes to protecting children online, including the:

  • Consultative Working Group (CWG) with representations from community groups, internet service providers, industry associations, business and government to provide advice to Government on world’s best practice safeguards for Australian children engaging in the digital economy;
  • Youth Advisory Group (YAG) which provides students from all over Australia a direct voice to Government on cybersafety issues.
  • Teachers and Parents Advisory Group on Cybersafety (TAP) to provide teachers and parents across Australia an opportunity to come together via a secure online forum to discuss cybersafety issues affecting children in the digital world.

ThinkUKnow is an Internet safety program delivering interactive training to parents, carers and teachers through primary and secondary schools across Australia using a network of accredited trainers.

Science, Research & Smart Infrastructure

And moving along now to Science and Research. This is a huge part of our ICT capability as a nation and I’m really proud to see a record $3 billion invested in the CSIRO, Australia’s premier science and research agency.

This is a new Quadrennial Funding Agreement to operate over the four years from 2011. The CSIRO does extraordinary work in relation to ICT and will continue to work with government and the industry as they invest in research to build a stronger economy, a healthier society and make the best use of the technology that Australians are so good at producing, ICT.

The Tasmanian ICT Centre has received $20 million over five years to extend the centre. It’s been a while since I’ve been to TIC, but it’s both a hub of bleeding edge research as well as a centre for developing globally competitive ICT businesses in Tasmania. (Budget Paper No 2, p281)

The entrepreneurs that I’ve known over many years from this centre in Tasmania continue to provide inspiration I think to many businesses throughout Australia and I was thrilled to see this allocation in the budget as they’ll continue to go from strength to strength.

$21 million has also been invested in an “Inspiring Australia” program to help try and bring science to every Australian, regardless of where they live, where they’ve come from, what their age, what their interests are. Hopefully it will get more young people on the path to science careers and celebrate Australia’s great achievements in the area of science and help people understand why science is so important to all of our lives and how we can use science to invest in our future. (Budget Paper No 2, p279)

And perhaps none is more relevant in the current debate than the public discussion about the climate change science. We’re lucky here in Parliament House to have the Climate Commission in the building having a public discussion about climate change and the science that is in, that tells the story of a bleak future if we do not act on climate change now, and what the prospects are and how we can make a difference if we do take action.

The Inspiring Australia Strategy includes three elements:

  • Unlocking Australia’s full potential will take science directly to schools and communities through National Science Week and other high-profile events. It will target youth and Indigenous communities from the suburbs to the bush ($15.6 million over three years).
  • Reward and recognition will highlight the achievements of Australia’s top researchers and science teachers, through the Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science and the Australian Museum Eureka Prizes ($3 million over three years).
  • A new national hub for science and technology communications will help the friends of Australian research channel their resources to best effect. It will coordinate the efforts of Australia’s research agencies, media outlets, universities, academies, professional bodies, the business sector, state-based science centres and museums and community-based organisations ($2.4 million over three years).

The Inspiring Australia strategy also includes a new Questacon’s Technology Learning Centre to be opened in 2013 and co-located at the Royal Australian Mint. Details at http://minister.innovation.gov.au/Carr/MediaReleases/Pages/QUESTACONTOMINTINTERESTINSCIENCECAREERS.aspx

Smart infrastructure is worth a specific mention to $61 million over three years to boost smart infrastructure technologies that can help reduce traffic congestion and improve traffic flow for everyone stuck in the commute. This is a really smart use of geospatial technology, it needs a high bandwidth network and I think it’s a fantastic way to exploit the opportunities that will exist once the NBN is in place using some of our fantastic capability in Australia on geospatial science and using it in an applied way for traffic flows and traffic management. (Budget Paper No 2, p274)

Further information on the managed motorways project: Infrastructure Australia identified four areas for funding — the M1 West Gate Freeway in Victoria, the M4 in Sydney, Gateway Motorway in Queensland and feasibility trials in Western Australia. “Managed motorways use system control through integrating data collection sensors and control tools to improve real-time management and secure a higher and more consistent level of motorway performance.” (Budget Paper No 2, p274)

One of the CSIRO initiatives is the Square Kilometre Array. This is going to be the worlds largest radio telescope and is a global collaboration that we are competing to host right here in Australia, in partnership with New Zealand. It will be supported through the NBN and generate enormous amounts of data per day, contributing to scientific endeavour, not just here in Australia, but around the world. I think the SKA is a project we can be extremely proud of and I’m certainly watching its progress with great interest. (Budget Paper No 2, p280)

Another budget initiative worth mentioning is $4.2m for the development of a business case for enhancement of the technology for biosecurity activities in partnership with Customs and Border Protection Service. (Budget Paper No 2, p93)

ICT Industry Development

An ongoing issue for the ICT industry in Australia of course is the interrelationship with government. ICT procurement is often a key determinant for the growth prospects and export potential of Australian businesses, so I’m really pleased to see the ongoing investment in the IT Supplier Advocate. (Budget Paper No 2, p275)

AGIMO have been working closely with the IT Supplier Advocate to consider ICT procurement policy, showcasing local SMEs and other initiatives.

If anyone in the Australian ICT sector has concerns about procurement, the IT Supplier Advocate is the person to speak to and I think again it shows that we understand the relationship between the health of our ICT sector, our private sector, and the important role the government plays in procuring ICT services. We know we can procure some of the smartest solutions in the world, and we know one of the best ways to do that is to go to our own innovative companies here in Australia.

The Supplier Advocate Program has partnered with the AIIA, CollabIT and the eGov Tech Cluster to undertake the following projects:

  • Establishing an Online IT Collaboration Directory to help government customers and multinational firms quickly and easily search the Australian market for subject matter experts, collaboration partners and niche suppliers.
  • Piloting a tailored IT capability showcasing service to give Government Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and multinational firms a snapshot of SME capabilities in particular fields of IT. This will help customers learn about the capabilities of smaller IT firms;
  • Delivering training in risk management to help SMEs develop risk management strategies and to better communicate their risk management capabilities in IT tenders.
  • A Government-Industry Co-exhibit Collaboration at CeBIT 2011 Sydney that involves SMEs showcasing the IT capabilities they supply to government customers as members of the Australian Government’s exhibiting stand.
  • Undertaking SME sectoral marketing activities and trade media communications to promote the commercial benefits of working with SMEs.

For more information on the IT and other Supplier Advocates, please visit http://www.innovation.gov.au/Industry/AustralianIndustryParticipation/SupplierAdvocates/Pages/default.aspx

The $12.4 million Digital Enterprises Program will assist small-to-medium enterprises and not-for-profit organisations, including cultural institutions and arts organisations, to take advantage of the NBN rollout. This will allow them to explore how the NBN will improve the efficiency and reach of their operations.

National Broadband Network

Sitting across all of these ICT initiatives is of course the National Broadband Network. You all know how proud I am of this policy. It’s a world first. We are the only government that is investing in a national high bandwidth network that will be ubiquitous. Everyone will get a higher bandwidth service, and it will prepare Australia not only for the challenges we face now, but the challenges, the economic and social challenges of the future. Most importantly, it closes the digital divide.

So we’ve made provision in our forward estimates of some $18 billion for the NBN rollout. The first mainland site was launched in Armidale with great fanfare and a wonderful community up there who I know, having been up there some years ago now, were crying out for high bandwidth services. (DBCDE Portfolio Budget Statement, p14)

The $23.8 million Digital Communities initiative will establish a Digital Hub in each of the 40 communities to first benefit from the NBN and accelerate take-up and usage of the network.

The $12.4 million Digital Enterprises Program will assist small-to-medium enterprises and not-for-profit organisations, including cultural institutions and arts organisations, to take advantage of the NBN rollout. This will allow them to explore how the NBN will improve the efficiency and reach of their operations.

The $27.2 million NBN Enabled Education and Skill Services Program will allow organisations to access grants to trial innovative on-line and interactive education and skills services.

The Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy also have an interactive map where you can select different initiatives and find out what is happening in your area in the DBCDE portfolio.

Education

The Digital Education Revolution has long been a flagship policy. It’s how Labor is investing in the next generation. Making sure they’ve got the skillset to use, to tap into, to innovate with digital technologies. And our aim of one to one ratio of computers is on track for all students year 9 to 12.

$20 million per year is available for a digital strategy for teachers and school leaders and the establishment of a Digital Education Advisory Group. National incentives to support the aims of DER have also been put in place including the National Digital Learning Resources Framework. (Budget Paper No 2, p171)

The $27.2 million NBN Enabled Education and Skill Services Program will allow organisations to access grants to trial innovative on-line and interactive education and skills services.

Other interesting programs

The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet expects to save some $1.6 million over four years from the Get Reading! Program which is aimed at promoting books and reading via utilising digital technology and e-publishing. (Budget Paper No 2, p286)

Record investment in Higher Education, projected to increase to $13 billion in 2012: http://minister.innovation.gov.au/Carr/MediaReleases/Pages/RECORDFUNDINGFORAUSTRALIANHIGHEREDUCATION.aspx

Continuation of support for the National Plan for Environment Information initiative http://www.environment.gov.au/npei/index.html

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