Emergency services, health get boost in Vic budget

 

Myki transition slated for completion in two years.

The Victorian Government's emergency services, health and transport departments have received the lion's share of an estimated $258 million in new IT investment outlined in the state's 2012-2013 budget.

In what Ovum research director Steve Hodgkinson labelled "slim pickings for the IT industry" in regard to substantial new projects, the state budget nonetheless targeted several portfolios to receive new investment over the next four years.

Deputy Premier and Minister for Emergency Services Peter Ryan unveiled a $56.8 million investment in the state’s emergency services infrastructure and equipment, including a new communications system and major upgrades for the Country Fire Authority.

Emergency services received $21.7 million over four years to renew or renegotiate current communications service contracts. The funds would also facilitate the integration of the Victorian State Emergency Service into Incident Control Centres and improve existing technology to reduce the risk of a Triple Zero system failure.

“Funding for emergency communications will be used to commence the Emergency Services Communications Master Plan,” Ryan said in a statement.

This plan would help overcome “disparate, out-dated communications systems and poor regional coverage”, he said.

The Department of Sustainability & Environment received $8.8 million over four years to publish fire risk mapping data.

The Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority, which oversees 1.8 million emergency calls annually from three control centres, received a further $21.9 million to enhance its computer-aided dispatch system.

Health

The Government also established a new core IT hub for hospitals and public health services. The Victorian Innovation, E-Health and Communications Technology Fund would receive $100 million over four years for IT projects, including system and software upgrades and installations.

The new fund was flagged in a ten-year prioirity outlook from the health department late last year, with a key focus on highlighting innovation and use of e-health technologies in the sector.

Its projects and priorities were expected to be fleshed out later this year.

Myki transition

The long-delayed Myki ticketing system project was expected to cost $204.8 million over the next two years as the Government neared completion of the rollout.

The ticketing system had been re-scoped and faced several changes after an extensive review of the much-criticised project last year.

The state expected to spend $182.2 million on rolling out the system this coming financial year with a further $22.5 million in 2013-2014, contributing to a total of $610 million spent on the project since it started.

The Government planned to phase out the current Metcard ticketing system as the Myki installation is completed.

Transport also received $32.5 million to complete its Metropolitan Train Safety Communications System.

Other projects

Other IT-specific investments in the state budget included:

  • $7.5 million over four years to link business-to-business networks, assisting the state's wider, $58 million manufacturing strategy
  • $54.7 million for the Government’s “Efficient Technology Services” initiative, down from $57.2 million the year prior
  • $99 million ongoing annual funding for Victorian Parliament’s IT systems
  • $470,000 to the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) and $253,000 to Melbourne's Planetarium to replace obsolete technology and implement more cost-effective, sustainable leasing arrangements
  • $7.5 million to the Port of Melbourne for upgrades and development projects
  • $1.2 million for IT projects conducted at Victoria’s Western Region Water Corporation

Analyst reaction

Hodgkinson said the budget provided a "little more cheer for the ICT industry" than the Liberal Government's 2011-2012 budget.

"The Baillieu Government’s first budget last year was an IT shocker, with the funding tap for new IT investment turned firmly off in favour of an extensive program of election commitments," he said.

"As it turns out, the tap has been opened cautiously again.Overall, the Government has spread $4.1 billion of investment across hundreds of new policy and service delivery initiatives, some of which will no doubt pull through some IT projects."

But Hodgkinson said an expectation to cut $1 billion from programs and through productivity improvements would see departments and agencies more tightly manage their investments and existing IT assets, leading to few new, bold projects from the Government.

No mention was made in budget papers of the state's troubled shared services agency CenITex.

The agency's board is expected to be removed by the Government, according to reports in The Age, after several inquiries into the department's agencies found poor governance and few benefits despite billions in investments over previous years.

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