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Science and Technology - State Service IT Systems

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Tuesday, 7 September 2021

Tags: State Budget, Public Service

Dr WOODRUFF - Minister, the independent review of the Tasmanian State Service was tabled yesterday and it recommended that the service progressively eliminate manual-only business processes and fund a small centrally funded resource to drive the digitalisation of existing business processes. The Auditor-General in October last year was critical of the Government's progress in the strategy that you developed in March last year, Our Digital Future. They said that a key aspect limiting progress is the lack of vision outlining the future development and priorities for ICT across the whole of government.

Both the Auditor-General and the state service review seem to suggest the current process is not enough and the ICT strategy needs an overhaul. What are you going to do to speed up digital integration across the service?

Mr FERGUSON - Thank you for the question, Dr Woodruff. The timing is very helpful because the release of the review into the state service coincides at a time where we are now implementing our digital future and the key actions in that.

The technology road map is a key enabler to see real transformation of business processes occurring within government and the transformation of government services that are currently being delivered face to face, over the counter, or even through the mail. There is a lot of work to do here. The state is not on its own. Other states have expressed very similar frustrations with their level of maturity. New South Wales would be the leading state.

They are doing a great job. Victor Dominello is leading but also has a very large budget. We are looking for ways to collaborate. For example, the FuelCheck app that we implemented was established by partnering with New South Wales. We can learn from other jurisdictions.

We have a lot of work to do. The review has only just been formally released and we are excited about the fact that we have now done a lot of remediation work in the Dark Ages data centres that we inherited. They were being held together by string and chewing gum and when one of them went out one year we had a gentleman running down Bathurst Street with every extension cord he could find.

We have moved past that. We now have contemporary facilities but it is time to start investing and changing our business processes. Our first priorities remain cyber. Now that we have $4.3 million for the Service Tasmania portal, that will be our next focus area.

Dr WOODRUFF - I am not quite sure what you are talking about when you say we are moving ahead because we have so many desperately Dark Ages processes in this state at the moment. Tasmania is lagging behind many other jurisdictions. For example, the review points out that payment for services at the Tasmanian Health Service can only be made in person, with credit card transactions made by writing them manually on a paper-based form that has to be hand-delivered to the hospital.

The review also said that there is a risk aversion associated with aspects of technology and digitalisation projects in the State Service. They recommend that the service has reached a point where the risk of inaction poses a greater threat to the provision of contemporary services than that of making steady and small steps and following the lead of other jurisdictions. Your strategy has been out for over a year and you are only starting to talk about implementation. You can understand why this review is wanting to see something more solid. What are you going to be doing in in this financial year to move from paper-based systems and in which departments?

Mr FERGUSON - I will pick the very example you provided me with, Dr Woodruff. Did you overlook the $10 million for ICT planning in the Department of Health?

Dr WOODRUFF - So, we are going to move out of paper everywhere in Health? In the Health budget $10 million is but a drop in the ocean. The AMA asked for $400 million.

Mr FERGUSON - You're saying that's not much. I have been corrected. It's $15 million.

If you take the time to read the section in the budget papers, it makes it very clear that it is the starting payment of what is envisaged to be a much larger project in Health IT. What the Government is not prepared to do is spend $10 million or $15 million on the next sense of priority when what we need is a comprehensive scoped plan that deals with the digital transformation that must occur. I have been advised -

Dr WOODRUFF - It's been seven years.

Mr FERGUSON - Dr Woodruff, we had data centres that switched off when the air conditioners failed, okay. That was our priority. You weren't here then but I was, and they have been our priority. I am very pleased we are now out of those centres. The second stage for me has been cybersecurity. We are tackling that and last year we had a big uplift in that.

I am really comfortable with this subject area. I could take as many questions as you like, but we are making the initial investments here in those transformation initiatives.

On the Ian Watt review, I have spoken to Dr Watt in person. I am very supportive of the approach and the themes he has adopted in his review. I note the Premier has commented publicly that he will closely examine the recommendations and consult with his ministers and his agency heads about the best way to implement the Government's response to that report. I encourage members to embrace this thinking. It is the way we need to be moving, noting that my priorities over the last seven years have been, without hesitation, to focus on the physical and cyber risks we experienced on coming to office.