Updated: Angus Taylor has outlined new details of the Commonwealth’s overhaul of its $5.6 billion annual ICT spend and committed to publishing a discussion paper on the changes from the recently-formed ICT Procurement Taskforce by the end of November.
Mr Taylor, the Assistant Minister for Digital Transformation and Cities, also outlined a formal program of stakeholder engagement on tech procurement issues in a speech to the University of Technology Sydney’s Futures.edu conference on Tuesday.
The ICT Procurement Taskforce, which formally began its work this week inside the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, is expected to wrap-up its work by the end of March next year.
The timing of the program of work gives the taskforce recommendations time to be considered by Cabinet ahead of the busiest period in the Budget cycle. Indeed, it allows its findings to be considered in a Budget context, if that is necessary.
The Taskforce is part of three integrated procurement initiatives – the ICT Procurement Taskforce which is an examination of the rules; the creation of the Digital Transformation Agency that was set up as the ICT governance structure; and the Digital Marketplace, the technology platform that has been developed through the existing Digital Transformation Office.
The changes mark the biggest overhaul of government tech procurement in twenty years, and the biggest shake-up of ICT project management since the early days of the Howard Government.
The Taskforce is being conducted through a project management team inside PM&C, but ultimately reports through deputy secretary Steven Kennedy and secretary Martin Parkinson.
Mr Taylor says the changes to ICT procurement and management will open up opportunities for Australian SMEs and startups to sell to government by making it easier – and thus less costly – to engage with the procurement process.
“Well in general a centrally managed and strategy-led agenda will deliver greater pathways for innovative ideas and entrepreneurs to engage with Government in a conversation,” Mr Taylor told the conference.
“The old procurement rules, while not making it impossible, certainly made it more difficult for entrepreneurs to engage with Government to leverage some of the $5.6 billion ICT spend,” he said.
The Digital Marketplace launched as a beta program in August provided a simple and focussed way for buyers to interact with innovative sellers. Mr Taylor said the marketplace project was working toward four key principles. The first is innovation.
“We need procurement processes that encourage innovation, and actually encourage service providers and government to constantly look at new and clever ways of doing things,” he said.
“The second is building procurement processes that are interactive, where the buyers and sellers can talk—because that’s what we do in the real world—and yet our systems and processes do not reflect that reality.”
“The third is procurement systems that drive accountability—not just to the seller, but also to the buyer.
The fourth key principle is transparency. Mr Taylor said it is important that the marketplace have transparency as to what the government is buying, what the seller can offer, and how the two sides interact.
The Digital Transformation Office seems happy enough with the digital marketplace. It has published positive commentary on its work on the DTO corporate blog.