Qld IT project freeze bites hard in budget

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Qld IT project freeze bites hard in budget

Limited new measures following election.

After three consecutive years of bumper IT investment in Queensland, the first budget from the newly re-elected Labor government has offered up little in the way of new tech initiatives.

Budget papers, handed down on Tuesday, reveal few keystone projects to be progressed over the next four years, in stark contrast to other post-pandemic budgets from states like NSW, Victoria and South Australia.

Only a $34.8 million advanced energy management system at the Department of Energy and Public Works, as well as a $255 million project to fit the state's European train control system, appear to be entirely new.

The government is also investing $35 million over the next five years to deliver a further 5000 QLiTE iPads and 4500 body-worn video cameras to frontline police offices, as announced prior to the election.

The lack of new initiatives is likely due to the government’s six-month freeze on new IT projects, which extends to everything except “critical safety or cyber security” related initiatives.

The freeze kicked off in July as part of a wider effort to redirect $3 billion into the state's coffers over the next four years.

Budget documents show the government has “achieved 47 percent, or $352.2 million, of its savings target for 2020-21”.

The government is progressing reform measures under six workstreams, one of which is for “data and ICT”, though the lack of new IT initiatives in the budget suggests a longer freeze lies ahead.

The limited budget funding follows several years of significant IT investment, including more than $85 million towards improving digital services and safeguarding systems from cyber attack last year.

The government also earmarked $51 million for the rebuild of the state’s child safety IT system after the auditor-general labeled the existing integrated client management system (ICMS) outdated.

In 2018, the government set aside $379 million over for years for the refresh of its Go Card public transport ticketing system and $164.2 million for digital hospitals and a clinical systems overhaul.

Health IT upgrades were also funded to the tune of $135.4 million in the 2017 budget.

While new measures are not immediately obvious in the 2020 budget, the papers do outline a raft of capital spending initiatives, including $128.2 million for Queensland Health ICT.

Other capital funding for 2020-21 includes:

  • $11 million for an initiative titled “other European train control system level 2” at the Department of Transport and Main Road
  • $10.8 million for Queensland Police Service ICT
  • $9.8 million for Queensland Fire and Emergency Services ICT systems and equipment and a further $3.1 million for information system development
  • $9.3 million for an expansion and upgrade of existing audio-visual capacity in the justice system
  • $7.1 million for TAFE Queensland ICT program of works
  • $6.2 million for Queensland Ambulance Service’s information systems department and a further $4.1 million for information systems development
  • $5.7 million for a “health technology equipment replacement program” at Queensland Health
  • $5.7 million for general systems development at the Department of information of Environment and Science
  • $3.1 million for system development at the Department of Resources and Water

The budget comes just weeks after the Labor Palaszczuk government was re-elected for a third term, with Leeanne Enoch recently appointed the state’s new technology minister.

Enoch will oversee the Department of Communities, Housing and Digital Economy, which replaces the Department of Housing and Public Works.

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