Commonwealth to review APS Digital Capability in 2021

The Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) has revealed it will mark the completion of a nine-year program to transition Australian Government agencies to digital information and records management by undertaking a Digital Capability Review in early 2021.

This new review of the Australian Public Service (APS) will apparently “enable government to make informed decisions on where to invest, based on needs, as well as gaps in current capability.”

An independent review of the Australian Public service published only two years ago found that as much as half of Australian Government ICT equipment is beyond its recommended shelf life.

It found “fragmented enabling systems and processes undermine a genuinely joined-up APS. Agencies cannot share data easily and have different ICT operating environments. Currently, the APS operates over 170 separate Enterprise Resource Planning systems.

In a survey undertaken by the review “71% of APS staff disagreed that standardised systems facilitate staff to move seamlessly between agencies. There is little integrated management or systematic sharing of knowledge across the APS, weakening institutional memory and leading to less effective community interactions.

“In the coming years, many agencies will need to invest heavily to replace ICT systems that are reaching their 'end of life' — meaning that they stop being officially supported by the vendor. There is no APS-wide information about the cost of replacing many of these ICT systems — but they need to be replaced to deliver essential government services the Australian community needs. For example, the Medicare payment system, responsible for 600 million Medicare, Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, aged care and veterans payments worth over $A50 billion a year, relies on a complex web of legacy and inflexible ICT systems (involving 200 applications and 90 databases). The current system inhibits policy options today, and will continue to do so in the future when consumers will demand more personalised health services from the Government. In another example, the Immigration Records Information System (installed in 1989) used in the visa application process, relies on the purchase of second-hand aftermarket hardware components from eBay — because hardware for the system stopped being produced around a decade ago. 260 The ANAO publicly documented the limitations of this system in 2003 but, as of 2019, critical parts of the system are still in use.”

The 2021 APS Digital Capability review was included in an online announcement by the DTA of its Digital Transformation Strategy 2.0.

The version 2.0 refresh of the Australian Government Digital Transformation Strategy, initially announced in 2018, will be released in 2021 following a period of review.

According to the announcement, “Government is seeking feedback on best practice co-design approaches that can deliver ambitious outcomes at a whole of government or whole of nation level.

“The refreshed Strategy will work to overcome barriers to digital transformation, including in funding and business case processes.

Government is looking for examples of new and innovative approaches to digital service delivery that would achieve better outcomes for the people of Australia.”

The government is also “interested in exploring how others have achieved true agility and what lessons can be taken from the private sector."

Submissions close December 18, 2020.

Digital Transformation Strategy refresh | Digital Transformation Agency (