DTA reheats deal with industry

Denham Sadler
National Affairs Editor

The Digital Transformation Agency has reheated an MoU arrangement with the Australian Information Industry Association, with the two organisations signing a “refreshed” agreement focused on skills and procurement.

The Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) said on Tuesday it would continue its Memorandum of Understanding with the AIIA after first signing a deal with the tech lobby group in March 2018.

The agreement is nearly identical to the one signed last year, and includes “suggested initiatives and activities” but with no concrete actions baked into the deal.

A DTA spokesperson said that the previous MoU did not have a formal end date, and the new one was signed to “refresh the set of suggested activities and initiatives in line with current priorities”.

Under the partnership, the DTA and AIIA will exchange information, experiences and expertise.

“Industry has a wealth of knowledge and experience that can assist government in improving services for people and businesses in Australia. Government must continue to work with industry to eliminate barriers and improve transparency so that all businesses, regardless of size, can contribute,” DTA chief executive Randall Brugeaud said.

The first page of the new MoU is exactly the same as the agreement signed last year and outlines how the partnership “exists to facilitate practical ways for the DTA and the AIIA to engage to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes”.

The agreement states that the two organisations are “interested in supporting each other’s goals” to provide better digital public services, enable a network for collaboration and inspiration, and helping SMEs and startups to engage in government procurement.

“The two parties will work cooperatively to exchange information, experiences and expertise to achieve better outcomes for individuals and businesses using government online services,” the MoU states.

The “principles of engagement” listed in the new MoU are also identical to the agreement last year, including collaboration, mutual advantage, measures of success, inclusive and communication.

The deal also includes several “suggested initiatives”, including the CEOs of the two organisations meeting six times in the next 12 months, three meetings per year between staff of the groups and industry roundtables to “test ideas and concepts relating to the procurement reforms”.

There are also plans for the DTA’s chief strategy officer to meet four times with the AIIA’s general manager of policy, although this position is not currently filled at the industry group.

The new MoU is valid for the next 12 months.

The previous agreement also included a number of activities and initiatives to take place in the 12 months from March last year, including similar meetings between the CEOs and staff, three roundtables on procurement, a communications agreement and the development of best practice and experience in performance metrics.

The DTA spokesperson said all of these took place except for one.

“With the exception of the Digital Investment and Development / skills item, all of the suggested activities and initiatives from the initial MoU took place. These, along with the longer term ICT procurement activities, are part of our forward work program,” the spokesperson told InnovationAus.com.

The initial MoU between the DTA and the AIIA was criticised by the Opposition, with then-shadow digital economy minister Ed Husic labelling it “ridiculous” and threatening to “tear it up” if Labor took government.

Mr Husic raised concerns with the commercial flow-on effects of the special access deal and that it would silence the AIIA as a critic of government policies.

He said that prioritising procurement discussions with the big tech players of the AIIA as a central element of community outreach was “ridiculous”, and that the MoU as a whole was “pointless”.

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