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Thursday, 10 October 1996
Page: 5212

Mr NUGENT —My question is addressed to the Minister for Finance. I ask the minister to inform the House of what action he has taken to implement the government's information technology outsourcing initiative which was announced in the budget.

Mr FAHEY —I thank the honourable member for his question. Honourable members may recall that in the budget the government announced an approval in principle of the outsourcing of its data centres subject to a scoping study and a business case analysis which will also look at the mid-range and desktop operations in departments and agencies. This study will begin in departments and agencies at the end of October. We are committed to getting the best value for information technology expenditure in every department and agency and believe this initiative will yield significant savings.

This whole of government approach to information technology has wide application in the Commonwealth. The government can no longer afford the luxury of, for example, more than 50 personnel and financial systems, nor can it afford more than a dozen data centres, many with excess capacity. I commend the Leader of the Opposition for his foresight in establishing the Office of Government Information Technology to make the necessary improvements, and outsourcing is another step in this process.

The government is strongly committed to this initiative proceeding in the context of the next budget. It will enable us to deliver more effective and efficient services to the community. It is my understanding that this is one of the more significant outsourcing initiatives ever undertaken on a national government basis. Outsourcing of IT is common in both the government at state level and the private sector, and the Commonwealth is lagging behind. This initiative will provide opportunities to Australian industry in the provision of direct outsourcing services to government agencies as well as in strategic alliances with global service providers to take advantage of the significant opportunities on the world stage that this scale of operations will bring.

To ensure that the initiative is pursued with vigour, I am creating a new policy advisory committee, which will be chaired by the chief government information officer, to provide me with timely and relevant advice on this outsourcing initiative and other major policy undertakings. The committee replaces the existing government information services policy board to better reflect the priorities of this government.

As I have indicated, outsourcing is commonplace in the private sector. Therefore, I felt that the government would benefit from private sector participation at a senior level. The committee will consist of eight members—four senior public servants and four private sector executives, all of whom have had extensive experience in the innovative application of information technology to deliver goods and services to their customers. Their independent advice will cover areas such as outsourcing strategies for the government's computing infrastructure, government telecommunication network rationalisation strategies, electronic transmission of information in government, one-stop shop delivery of government services and Commonwealth-state cooperation in IT infrastructure provision.

I am confident that with the advice of this committee a cost-effective and efficient service can be delivered to the community through a practical whole of government approach to the use of information technology.