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Cloud, cyber security and mobile everything on Victoria's tech agenda

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Sylvia Pennington

Victoria's IT public servants will be trained to be more innovative.

Victoria's IT public servants will be trained to be more innovative. Photo: Jim Rice

Embracing cloud services, making government data sets public and adopting mobile technology are on the updated to-do list of Victoria's Technology Minister Gordon Rich-Phillips, the man charged with reforming the state's use of information and communications technology.

Released this week, the Victorian government's ICT Strategy 2014-15 provides a snapshot of Victoria's tech-led future as Rich-Phillips would like it to be. It follows the publication of a similar document last year.

The government hopes to save $125 million by renegotiating software contracts and hardware purchasing arrangements, develop a cyber security strategy for government data and train its technology staff to be more innovative and risk aware.

Services provided by shared services bureau CenITex are expected to be fully outsourced by year's end and an expressions of interest process for free Wi-Fi services for central Melbourne and major towns completed.

Since taking the high-tech helm in December 2010, Mr Rich-Phillips has been on a mission to overhaul the way Victoria buys and manages technology, in the wake of a string of debacles, including the implosion of CenITex.

The bureau, which accounts for around $140 million of the state's annual ICT spend of $1.5 billion, has been the subject of three inquiries, an Ombudsman's investigation and a police probe by the fraud squad.

The business of selling ICT to the state has been opened up to all comers, following the replacement last year of the eServices panel with a more flexible online eServices register. Eligible vendors can join the latter at any time.

While Telstra and Optus have held a decade-long monopoly on the supply of telecoms services to the state, an online marketplace known as VicConnect will give agencies access to new suppliers by mid-2015.

Public sector analyst at Intelligent Business Research Services Alan Hansell said the latest iteration of the government's plan is impressive in intent but remains light on details.

"It sets out the right things that need to be done but omits how the right way will be achieved," Mr Hansell said. "For instance, it recognises the gaps in skills, leadership and governance and assumes they will be identified and fixed - it is a naive assumption.

"The skeleton, which is what the report describes, needs flesh on the bones to be credible."

A source close to the government said the strategy focused too heavily on enabling technology capability, rather than on "key public value issues".

"The strategy is broad, dealing with economic issues alongside basic internal challenges - this detracts from the urgent need for digitally focused government," the source said.

Successful initiatives within governments were usually driven by individual agencies with dynamic leaders who worked closely with the ICT industry.

"The Victorian government should harness this 'secret sauce' and focus on being more flexible and [on] key public value outcomes. The ongoing attempts by governments to boil the ocean on the ICT front does not have a strong track history."

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