The Connected Growth of IT & Government in Canberra

By Lisa Thorburn

This year marks a milestone for Canberra. The city is celebrating its centennial anniversary, and will both commemorate the past and gear up for the future with the 4th annual TEDxCanberra conference this September. The conference’s theme, fittingly, will be “Then.Now.Next.” Both the centenary and TEDx will reveal the ways in which Canberra has embraced innovation in many areas, including the technology space, and the strides it must continue to make toward ongoing conversation about how the public sector can support and augment IT industry growth in particular.

Canberra & IT: Then and Now

The government has embraced and implemented a few major technology projects, both internal initiatives and public-facing programs, over the past few years. In 2012, the Information Management Office announced its “Internet Gateway Reduction Program”, intended to minimise the number of government Internet connection points and combat cyber security risk within public sector departments.

Beginning in 2011, the AGIMO ventured into cloud territory by publishing its “Cloud Computing Strategic Direction Paper”, which outlined how the cloud could improve productivity and workflow within government offices. Through the spring of 2012, the Office released a series of guidelines for government agencies choosing a cloud provider and contract. As of 2013, the government is displaying indicators of a common government cloud offering. In recent years, the NZ Government has embraced a cloud-first policy and on-boarded several agencies into the G-Cloud. They have begun to harvest the benefits and can offer us some valuable lessons in this space.

Data centre services are another thriving area in Australian IT and government. In terms of size, Australia is one of the most advanced data centre services market — of which the government accounts for one quarter — in the Asia-Pacific region and is estimated to reach over $1.5 billion by 2019. With the AGIMO Datacentre Panel to be revisited no later than 2015, we expect the Government provider landscape to become substantially more competitive. The rapid growth of managed data centre services, however, can also be attributed to other economic factors like shrinking IT budgets, the demand for new facilities and other initiatives.

What’s next?

We’ve been given a taste of what’s to come for government and IT through the recently released Federal Budget, which outlined a number of new tech-inclined programs, especially in the realm of data. In the budget, AUSTRAC (Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre) was granted $16.1 million over four years to establish a new data centre. The government will invest $238.4 million to establish five Industry Innovation Precincts, with the goal of bringing research bodies, educational campuses, public sector agencies and business service providers together for R&D purposes.

While these parts of the budget position the government as more IT-focused, there are still steps to take to ramp up our innovative capabilities here in Canberra. Overall government spending will decrease, requiring a renewed focus on service delivery and greater need to innovate within cost constraints. Australian-based organisations of all sizes will require more government support to facilitate creativity and product development. Similarly, more stringent action must be taken to help solve the country’s ICT skills gap through training, certification and education.

Australian government policies have — to an extent — adapted to fit and foster the age of modern technology. To maximise Australia’s extensive IT resources, however, the government should take a collaborative approach with the private sector to spur and sustain mutual growth.

With 17 years of IT experience, Lisa Thorburn has grown Datacom’s ACT office from 23 to over 200 people and is running the business profitably. Under Lisa’s stewardship, Datacom is seen as a vital addition to the Canberra private sector landscape, as well as a flexible and trustworthy provider to government. Prior to joining Datacom, Lisa was Senior Director of CA Technologies’ Federal Region and was responsible for the management of all aspects of the company’s business operations in Canberra. She has also served as State Manager, Federal at SAS Australia/New Zealand and Senior Manager at Cognos.

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