Victoria's computer aided dispatch (CAD) system and other legacy platforms are hampering the lifesaving work of the state's Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority, according to an independent review.
The review [pdf], conducted by the state’s former top cop Graham Ashton following a blowout in ambulance wait times, found “systemic issues” with the triple zero call centre operator’s technology services.
The findings relate to ESTA’s operations prior to October 2021. Since then, the agency has embarked on a significant program of work to enhance call-taking and dispatch (CTD), backed by a $360 million investment by the government.
The review, released on Thursday, said stakeholders had “expressed significant concern regarding the capability of ESTA’s current technology services” throughout the review, a finding that is supported by a PwC capability maturity assessment.
“This assessment found that ESTA’s technology services are basic and meet only the minimum requirements,” the review said.
“Some of the key concerns are related to not meeting community expectations and its legacy technology platforms, like the CAD system.
“As ESOs [emergency services organisations] rely mostly on ESTA’s CAD system to dispatch and manage responses, limited and poor functionality is not acceptable.”
The review said the ESTA had traditionally found it challenging to adapt the current hexagon CAD (Hex-CAD) system to “allow for the growing needs of the organisation, as well as the bespoke needs of each ESO it provides CTD services to”.
On-premises hosting and monolithic architecture are two reasons cited in the report as “hamper[ing] ESTA’s ability to transition to a modern CAD system”, as is the lack of an integration layer.
CAD system change requests were also found to regularly go unanswered causing frustration among ESOs, with one noting “that they are yet to have a change delivered that was requested over 10 years ago”.
The CAD system was identified as “not meet the future needs of the ESTA staff, ESOs and community,” but the review made no recommendation as the agency has already begun transitioning from an “on-premises, ‘plug-in’ CAD system to a fully-integrated CAD”.
As part of this transition, the agency is “shifting their hosting capabilities into the cloud to reduce reliance on the current platform and enable an easier transition to a more modern application architecture”.
The ESTA is also “processing activities to develop an integration layer”, which will enable it to “reduce its reliance on legacy infrastructure and applications, improve its resilience, responsiveness and overall capabilities”.
“For instance, the CAD system does not meet the needs of dispatchers in the current geospatial solution,” the review said.
“Dispatchers often have a third screen dedicated to Google Maps so they can more accurately direct first responders.
“It is possible, through the integration layer, to make mapping open source, allowing for multiple map layers to be added and updated continuously.”
The review also said there was an opportunity for the “plan and build functions of technology services to move from ESTA to DJCS [Department of Justice and Community Services]”, with the “run” function to remain with ESTA.
“Moving the plan and build requirements from ESTA to DJCS... will ensure technology services that enhance ESTA’s ability to operate strategically and more effectively take into account the medium to long-term challenges facing the sector when advocating for investment,” the review said.
The review has recommended the DJCS and ESTA “develop and implement a strategic roadmap for the future delivery of technology services ensuring alignment with whole-of-sector ICT strategic planning and investment”.
In moving toward a “contemporary and modern technology infrastructure”, the review said the ESTA will “need to invest in the workforce”, noting that “there is currently an absence of strategic workforce plan in the technology space”.
In its response to the review [pdf], the government said “DJCS and ESTA will work with ESOs and other stakeholders to develop a roadmap that enables more effective and efficient procurement of managed services and infrastructure”.