The WA government has established a $500 million digital capability fund to speed up the state’s digital transformation by upgrading legacy IT systems that “present significant risk”.
Budget papers handed down on Thursday reveal the fund will be used to “improve government service delivery, enhance cyber security and mitigate operational risks” over the next four years.
It follows the recent release of WA’s second digital strategy, which promised to build “whole-of-government digital capabilities” to reimagine citizen-facing online services.
Premier Mark McGowan said the fund had been created to “keep pace with the demands of the digital world” and “upgrade ICT systems across government”.
It was made possible by a “better than expected operating surplus for 2020-21” that came in at $5.6 billion.
The government is forecasting a $2.8 billion operating surplus in 2021-22.
“Everyone understands the importance of ensuring that government can operate safely in an increasingly online environment,” McGowan said in his budget speech.
“Whether it’s delivering more online services to the public, back-of-house operations or ensuring our information and systems are secure.
“This investment will ensure that service delivery keeps pace with public expectations and protects key agencies against cyber attacks and operational threats."
The funding includes “$224 million in expenses and $275 million in capital”, with $200 million of that “set aside for future health sector ICT projects, subject to the approval of business cases”.
Only $35.7 million of the $300 million of available funds appears to have been made available to agencies this year, however, with the bulk of the funding falling in the 2023-24 and 2024-25 financial years.
The Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety is the biggest winner in 2021-22, receiving $24.5 million for two projects.
Just under $14 million will be used to “modernise and integrate existing standalone data and systems and expand system capability associated with mining approvals”.
The department will spent the remaining $10.6 million on its “geoscience data transformation strategy”, which was released in March.
As part of the strategy, the Geological Survey of Western Australia plans to “rationalise the storage, management and delivery of its data” over five years.
A further $8.1 million from the digital capability fund will be used to “maintain critical police systems and databases and ICT infrastructure upgrades”.
The Office of Digital Government will receive $3.1 million – or $800,000 each year – to administer the fund over the forward estimate and perform “strategic oversight and assurance functions”.
Innovation and ICT Minister Don Punch told iTnews the fund would help deliver better services and reduce regulatory burden “through measures such as a whole-of-government online self-service portal and streamlining online access to government services”.
“The fund is a meaningful commitment to digital transformation across the WA government and will progress WA towards a more secure, sustainable and inclusive digital future,” he said.
“It will accelerate the delivery of the digital strategy by supporting agencies to make the necessary investment decisions for its implementation.”