The system used to store and manage some of Victoria’s most critical data is up for replacement, more than 30 years after it was first installed.
The state’s Births, Deaths and Marriages (BDM) registry is just about to embark on the daunting task of migrating the names and life events of all its citizens into a brand new solution, a process it hopes to have completed by the end of 2015.
Despite being patched up in 1998, the current 'Lifedata' system is a product of a different age and its limitations are starting to seriously hamper BDM’s ability to deliver the kinds of services Victorians expect of them.
“The manner in which BDM delivers its services has remained largely unchanged for a long period of time,” the agency conceded in a public approach to market.
“For example, it is not currently possible to apply for and receive a certificate online.”
One year ago BDM redesigned its website with new functionality, including some online payment and ordering options, but it believes too many of its processes still require face-to-face contact.
It also struggles to reconcile all the different sources of paper and electronic data received by hospitals, parents and other government organisations into a single personal identity for each of the 14 million records people, alive and deceased, that it holds records on.
For example, when a baby is born in a Victorian hospital, notification comes from the hospital and parents separately via two either electronic or paper forms. These are then manually collated and checked by a BDM officer before being entered into Lifedata.
When a Victorian passes away, an officer must record the death twice – once in the death register and once in an amendment to the deceased’s office birth record.
“Current system design and complexity [translates into] high maintenance costs, storage capacity constraints, a system increasingly prone to failures, and limitations for online enablement and automation,” BDM acknowledges.
While automation and efficiency is high on its list of priorities, the registry is at pains to make potential vendors understand that its number one focus is maintaining the integrity of the dataset that has been entrusted to it, and which it is legally committed to preserving.
On top the 14 million records it already maintains, BDM receives another 75,000 births, 35,000 deaths and 27,500 marriage notifications and issues approximately 380,000 certificates relating to both contemporary and historical records each year.
It also outputs statistical information to 30 external parties, including the Australian Bureau of Statistics, and plays a crucial role in checking identities for the police and enabling the national online Document Verification Service.
“The challenge and expectations/intent for the system replacement is to provide a scalable, flexible and more robust capability that delivers enhanced functionality (such as automation and online), while protecting the integrity and security of the current information set,” it said.
It will be hoping to avoid the pitfalls of its NSW equivalent, which has struggled with its LifeLink project for nearly ten years.
Commenced in 2006, the NSW registry of births, deaths and marriages now has its fingers crossed that its own replacement system, LifeLink, will go live in 2014, six years late. The program “has had several starts & stops” it concedes, including the termination of an initial contract with UXC in 2009.