Canberra's outsourced IT labour hits seven-year high

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Canberra's outsourced IT labour hits seven-year high

External techies make up a quarter of the IT workforce.

The proportion of contractors making up the IT ranks of the federal public service has hit its highest point since Canberra started recording the figures in 2008.

The Department of Finance yesterday released its seventh round of IT benchmarking [pdf], delivering a vertical by vertical breakdown of where Commonwealth agencies spend their IT dollars.

The 2014-15 figures reveal that overall government technology spending has bounced back to $5.6 billion after dropping to $5.2 billion and $5.3 billion in the years prior.

The increase takes expenditure back to pre-2011 levels.

At the same time, however, the government’s IT workforce as counted by full-time equivalent staff has dropped to roughly 15,400 workers, or 2397 FTEs less than its 2011 peak.

The segment of the overall workforce made up by contractors and other sources of external IT labor has grown to 24 percent, which is its highest level since the government started the benchmarking process in 2008.

Internal IT workers made up just 76 percent of the overall IT group in 2014-15, according to the data, down from a peak of 84 percent in 2012-13, and four percent down year-on-year.

However, the Department of Finance pointrf out that the average payscale of IT workers in the government had also risen, suggesting that the bulk of outsourced roles were located within the lower ranks of the public service.

“The change indicates growth in skilled and more experienced ICT staff employed internally,” the report stated.

The stats show that IT workers are more likely to occupy senior roles compared to the average distribution of public service workers across APS pay brackets.

Hungry for petabytes

Possibly the steepest graph in the 2014-15 report, however, shows the dramatic rise in storage demand from what is clearly an increasingly data-hungry Commonwealth.

The total installed storage of surveyed agencies in the first round of benchmarking in 2008-09 was 46 petabytes. By 2014-15, this had risen to 291 petabytes, at an average unit cost of $788 per terabyte. In 2008 agencies were paying nearly $4000 for the same unit of storage.

Australian Government ICT Trends Report 2014–15

Benchmarking under review

The 2014-15 report is likely to be the last to follow the same framework originally set out in 2008-09, with the Department of Finance having recently completed a review of the way it produces the report, focusing on its cost compared to the value it delivers.

The 2014-15 report cost $500,000 to produce.

Going forward, Finance said, it will only collect comprehensive data from the 24 organisations making up 90 percent of business-as-usual spending, while scaling back to “key metrics” from the remaining small agencies.

The changes are to be introduced progressively over the next two years.

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