Glenn Archer is proud of quiet achievers in IT departments, writes Trevor Clarke.
The Australian government's new chief information officer says government IT projects are "not well understood" by the wider community and their implementers deserve recognition.
Notwithstanding several documented IT stuff-ups in state and government agencies over the past decade, including Victoria's CenITex and Queensland's payroll debacle, Australia's recently installed CIO, Glenn Archer, said "IT departments or sections within departments" were the quiet achievers in delivering services in a sector that spends over $6 billion a year in technology.
"There is a great deal of interest in those IT projects that don't go quite according to plan but those that quietly function and deliver major business benefit often never get much mention," Mr Archer said, while acknowledging there were problem projects.
He maintained that the bulk of projects were "in fact delivering exactly to expectations and achieve the outcome that both the government and stakeholders - being businesses, citizens, community organisations, schools - expect".
Mr Archer cites the national Telepresence system that has 37 operational video conferencing sites across the country for the public service and ministers to use as one successful example. "There have, to date, been nearly 2500 meetings held through that system," he said.
"The calculated cost of holding those meetings including airfare and travel costs, had they occurred in person, would have been around $44 million.
"There has also been over 8500 tonnes of CO2 avoided that would have been attributable to holding those meetings."
Another win was the Australian Bureau of Statistics eCensus in 2011, in which more than 2.7 million households, or one in three, submitted their information online, up from 10 per cent previously, he said.
"That is a radical change and that represents not just an
easier way for citizens to comply with their obligations to do a census return but also an incredible outcome for the ABS
in terms of reduced cost in capturing that data and in greater reliability and accuracy of the data," Mr Archer said.
Other success stories included the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations website refresh, the Department of Defence's migration of its data centre from Canberra to Sydney and the Centrelink Refresh project started in 2004.
"It is easy for us to forget how quickly things change but in mid-2002 Centerlink effectively had no online authenticated systems, none at all.
"So here we are 10 years later and there are hundreds available through DHS's website. The key reason for raising that is the work or investment by government then and a pretty well-executed project has actually created the foundation for the integration of the Department of Human Services that exists today."
The Australian Government ICT Awards Program is analysing 2013 entries [http://agimo.gov.au/collaboration-services-skills/australian-government-ict-awards-program/]. Introduced in 2006, it is one of few celebrations of IT successes in government.
Previous winners include the Bureau of Meteorology for its Next Generation Forecast and Warning System and the National Library of Australia's Trove website.