ABS gets $250m to upgrade ageing IT

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ABS gets $250m to upgrade ageing IT

Government responds to pleas.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics will be handed $250 million in federal government funding to upgrade its ageing systems over the next five years.

The funding - which will be included in next week's budget - is a response to pleas by the national statistics agency for cash to upgrade old and unstable technology systems.

Late last year acting ABS boss Jonathan Palmer said the agency would try to recoup some or more of the $50 million it was told to cut over three years in the last federal budget to undertake a "major transformation program".

The Government granted the agency the funds to build a business case for the transformation, and the ABS later used the developed business case to lobby for more investment to deliver the work - an effort it this week revealed had been a success.

"The age, fragility, and inflexibility of our systems continues to be a concern," Palmer wrote in last year's ABS annual report.

"We need to update and transform our business processes if we are to continue to provide timely, relevant and accessible statistics and services in an increasingly complex and connected digital world."

The $250 million promised to the ABS will go towards implementing an "efficient enterprise-wide approach" to the more than 500 systems the agency currently maintains - some of which are over 30 years old.

"One in three ICT applications have been classed as unreliable, with issues occurring daily or weekly, putting critical statistical data at risk. Further, one in six applications are no longer supported by the vendor due to it being outdated technology," the agency stated.

"A 2014 ABS assessment found that the current ICT infrastructure is highly vulnerable to failure and error, and the ability of ICT staff to maintain the existing systems is becoming increasingly compromised."

The ABS will use the funding to build new mobile apps and online portals for access to ABS data, and plans to introduce a "a trusted whole of government data integration capability for policy research, analysis and program evaluation".

"The work would connect up government efforts on data, and address critical data gaps, barriers to data sharing, data acquisition, data integration and data access, as well as increase productivity and reduce duplication of statistical functions in government agencies," the ABS wrote.

"In developing the proposals there will be extensive consultation with relevant stakeholders."

A procurement program for the transformation effort will begin in the middle of the year. The ABS said while some of its requirements can be met through off-the-shelf products, it will need custom solutions for niche areas.

The agency will also put the cash towards an existing list of technology initiatives it is working to achieve by 2018.

The 13 items listed include a number of ongoing items of work - as well as the build of systems to help deliver the 2016 Census - such as a Citrix XenDesktop and Microsoft HyperV- based virtual desktop replacement, an upgrade to its outdated Oracle-based financial management system, and a data centre consolidation drive.

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