Census 2021 digital services handed to PwC, AWS

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Census 2021 digital services handed to PwC, AWS

Security front of mind after 2016 debacle.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics has selected big four consulting firm PwC to build and operate the online platform for the next national survey on Amazon Web Services.

Acting deputy statistician Chris Libreri announced on Friday that the pair had been chosen to support the 2021 Census digital service following a “rigorous selection process”.

The appointment represents a significant break in tradition for the agency that had relied on IBM to provide the online component of the survey until the high-profile 2016 eCensus debacle.

The now infamous ‘#Censusfail’ event resulted in the electronic survey being initially knocked out by a series of DDoS attacks and then kept offline due to a series of behind-the-scenes failures.

Keen to avoid a repeat in 2021, the agency went looking for “highly experienced” providers last September to deliver the “secure, fast and simple digital service” for the Census.

Shortly after beginning this nine-month search The Canberra Times revealed IBM had not entered a bid for the project.

On Friday, Libreri said the selection was a major milestone in “delivering a safe, secure and high-quality 2021 Census for all Australians”.

“PwC Australia brings to the 2021 Census a wealth of experience in managing and protecting sensitive personal information across the government, banking, superannuation and health sectors,” he said.

“Keeping people’s information secure and confidential is the highest priority for the ABS. It was a key factor in the digital services selection process and a critical consideration in the design of Census activities.”

The digital service will consist of an online form and website hosted on AWS, with all data to be hosted in Australia, as well as an online assistance component to help people complete the Census.

An AWS stack was also used by the agency for the 2017 same sex marriage survey, where it threw massive amounts of traffic – comparable to 400 censuses of load – at the online form to ensure it could withstand pressures.

The ABS and PwC Australia will work with the Australian Cyber Security Centre and the Digital Transformation Agency on the build, which is expected to be used by at least 75 percent of the population to submit their response.

The government allocated $38.3 million in last month's federal budget towards addressing "issues" raised by national cyber security advisor Alastair MacGibbon and senators in the aftermath of the 2016 Census.

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