The federal government will establish three ‘cyber hub’ pilots in some of Canberra’s largest IT shops to provide cyber security services to agencies with fewer resources.
Employment minister Stuart Robert revealed the step change in government cyber policy during his keynote to the Australian Financial Review Government Summit on Wednesday.
He said the hubs will allow “leading agencies such as Defence, Home Affairs and Services Australia” to provide services to agencies without the “breadth and depth of skills”.
“In some cases, we know that certain agencies cannot compete for skills and resources in the marketplace and we must develop alternative ways for meeting their needs,” he said.
Until now, agenices have largely been left to their own devices on cyber security, with the Australian Signals Directorate only stepping in to provide advice and assistance.
While it is not yet known how the cyber hubs will operate, the shift towards consultancy-like services should go some way to lifting the government's troubled cyber security maturity.
Agencies, particularly small and micro-sized ones, have consistently struggled to meet the government's mandatory cyber security requirements, leading to a patchwork of resilience.
It is also not clear how the hubs relate to the “secure hubs” that last year’s cyber security strategy said would “centralise the management and operation” of government networks.
Robert, who retained oversight of digital policy in a machinery of government change earlier this month, also suggested that such a model could extend to other IT services in the future.
“We can see a future where such hub models may be established for other types of scalable services, not just cyber security,” he said.
“This may include broader ICT functions – such as secure email, or corporate services."
The government already has this to an extent, having established six shared services hubs for corporate services following the carve-up of the former Shared Services Centre in 2016.
Robert said any further shift towards a hub-based model would be “informed by the whole-of-government architecture and the digital review”.
The Digital Transformation Agency is currently developing the architecture, which will “map out all the strategic capabilities” required by government, after a slow start last year.
It is happening alongside a digital review of agency capabilities looking at “what level of skills exist, at what levels of maturity and how differently agencies are currently performing”.
Robert said both works would help the government to “understand how we start planning the future at enterprise scale across whole-of-government or whole-of-nation”.
Robert also used his address to highlight the need for greater consistency across federal, state and territory digital and data capabilities.
He said a recent move by the DTA within the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet would assist this by sharpening the government's focus on whole-of-government needs.
“We are now taking a whole-of-government – and, where appropriate, a whole-of-nation – approach to building scalable, secure and resilient data and digital capabilities,” he said.
Premiers have already begun work to achieve this vision, having agreed to create an intergovernmental agreement to facilitate greater data sharing.
Robert said the agreement was about “building a national asset that will facilitate a step-change in data sharing between jurisdictions”.
“It will support policy development and service delivery by all levels of government, including at key points in people’s lives or living through a natural disaster – quickly and seamlessly,” he said.
“This will reduce the need for Australians to try to navigate between different tiers of government and enable them to get on with their lives.”
Robert likened the current approach to data and digital to the different rail gauges between states and territories before unification.
“Right now we have a digital infrastructure ‘system’ spread across all levels of government,” he said.
“That is akin to Australia’s railway systems of old that were typified by the proliferation of narrow, standard and broad gauges right across the country.
“It took decades to fix the disparate systems across states and it wasn’t until almost 100 years after Federation that mainland capitals were joined by a standard gauge – with resultant economic uplift.
“So, the question ahead of us is how do we leverage all these different strategies to deliver a seamless platform for government?"
Robert pointed to myGov as an example of national digital infrastructure, with more than 2.5 million Australian now regularly using the portal.
The government is currently building out a new portal, myGov Beta, in a bid to offer greater personalisation of services.
“Building on what has already been done with myGov, we are putting in place the required capabilities for this platform to become a single front door for government,” Robert added.