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Review of the Australian Government's Use of Information and Communication Technology

By Sir Peter Gershon CBE FREng

Publication Summary

In April 2008 Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Lindsay Tanner, engaged Sir Peter Gershon to lead an independent review of the Australian Government's use and management of information and communication technology (ICT).

Sir Peter provided Minister Tanner with his report on the 28th of August 2008.

Minister Tanner released the report on 16 October 2008.

Sir Peter’s report provides a comprehensive and detailed analysis of a wide range of issues affecting the Government’s use and management of ICT, and also outlines a staged plan for the implementation of recommendations.

In November 2008 the Government endorsed recommendations of the Review in full and initiated the ICT Reform Program.

The Government extended the timeframe for the reduction of ICT contractors within the APS from two years to three to allow for the bulk of the reductions to occur after the development of a strategic ICT workforce plan and whole-of-government ICT career pathway.

Full Publication: Review of the Australian Government's Use of Information and Communication Technology [pdf icon 2.6MB]

Table of Contents

  1. Chapter 1: Views from within the Australian Government
    1. ICT Investment Decision Making
    2. Project delivery
    3. Organisational capability
    4. People
    5. Managing ICT spend
    6. Procurement and ICT Outsourcing
    7. Use of best practice
    8. Views on existing whole-of-government arrangements
    9. Views on data centres
    10. Views on the ICT industry
    11. ICT arrangements in Ministerial Offices
  2. Chapter 2: Views from outside the Australian Government  
    1. Better utilisation of ICT assets
    2. Shared services
    3. Standardised/coordinated approach to procurement
    4. Use of Commercial Off-the-shelf Solutions
    5. Need for standardisation
    6. Whole-of-government governance
    7. High costs of tendering
    8. The Australian government compared to other governments
    9. Skills shortage 
    10. Green ICT
    11. Security Clearances
    12. Best practices
  3. Chapter 3: Summary of survey findings
    1. Survey approach
    2. Survey Results
  4. Chapter 4: Key findings
    1. Weak governance of pan-government issues related to ICT
    2. Agency governance mechanisms are weak in respect of focus on ICT efficiency and understanding of organisational capability to commission, manage and realise benefits from ICT-enabled projects
    3. The business as usual ICT funding in agencies is not subject to sufficient challenge and scrutiny  
    4. Disconnect between the stated importance of ICT and actions in relation to ICT skills
    5. There is no whole-of-government strategic plan for data centres. In the absence of such a plan, the government will be forced into a series of ad hoc investments which will, in total, cost significantly more than a coordinated approach
    6. The Government ICT marketplace is neither efficient nor effective
    7. There is a significant disconnect between the Government’s overall sustainability agenda and its ability to understand and manage energy costs and the carbon footprint of its ICT estate
  5. Chapter 5: Recommendations
    1. Recommendation 1 – Strengthen pan-government governance
    2. Recommendation 2 – Strengthen Agency Governance
    3. Recommendation 3 – Tighten the management of ICT business as usual funding
    4. Recommendation 4 – Enhance the management of the APS ICT skills base
    5. Recommendation 5 – Data Centres
    6. Recommendation 6 – Improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the ICT marketplace
    7. Recommendation 7 – Sustainability of ICT
  6. Chapter 6: Implementation
  7. Appendices
    1. Terms of Reference
    2. Submission questions
    3. Survey instrument
    4. Submissions received
    5. Consultations
    6. Agencies with ICT Spend over $20 million in 2007–08
    7. Agencies with ICT Spend $2 million to $20 million in  2007–08
    8. Candidates for whole-of government approaches
    9. Proposed criteria for whole-of-government approaches and arrangements subject to opt-out
    10. Proposed role of AGIMO
    11. Linkage between Terms of Reference and Recommendations
    12. Details of ICT Review Team

Letter from Sir Peter Gershon to the Hon. Lindsay Tanner

The Hon. Lindsay Tanner
Minister for Finance and Deregulation
Parliament House

Dear Minister

I have now concluded the Review of the Australian Government’s use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) which you invited me to undertake on behalf of the Government on 25 March 2008, and attach my report for your consideration. The terms of reference asked me, amongst a number of issues, to review and report on both the efficiency and effectiveness of the Australian Government’s current use of ICT, to determine whether the Government is realising the greatest return from its investments in ICT, and to examine whether the right institutional arrangements are in place to maximise the return.

This report is the outcome of a process in which I have sought to (i) gather a substantial body of evidence to understand how ICT is currently used and managed; (ii) analyse the evidence to identify significant issues; and (iii) produce recommendations which will address these issues. This has involved engagement with the Prime Minister, Ministers, across government, and with industry and other interested bodies. During this process, 112 submissions were received, 63 meetings held, 3 visits made, and 1 large and 2 small surveys conducted.

The outputs of the review provide a snapshot of the current state of ICT in the Australian Government.

At the heart of my findings is a conclusion that, not withstanding the work undertaken to date, the current model of weak governance of ICT at a whole-of-government level and very high levels of agency autonomy, characterised by an ability to self-approve opt-ins to existing whole-of-government ICT arrangements, leads to sub-optimal outcomes in the context of prevailing external trends, financial returns, and the aims and objectives of this Government. While ICT has undoubtedly benefited government administration and the delivery of key public services, I have also found that benefits realisation and the measurement of benefits arising from investments in ICT are areas where there is substantial scope for improvement, together with measuring and improving the efficiency of current ICT operations.

My recommendations involve a major program of both administrative reform of, and cultural change from, a status quo where agency autonomy is a longstanding characteristic of the Australian Public Service. Based on my experience of creating sustainable change in the United Kingdom public sector environment, there are two critical requirements which will determine the success of this reform program: firstly, sustained leadership and drive at Ministerial and top official levels and, secondly, ensuring the enablers of change are properly resourced, not only in funding terms but also with skills of the right calibre.

Given these two requirements are met, I am confident that the recommended actions and changes can be successfully implemented over the next two to three years and deliver substantial benefits to the Australian Government.

Thank you for the opportunity to lead such a stimulating and challenging review. I would like to pay tribute to my team of agency and AGIMO secondees whose commitment, contribution, professionalism and support made it possible to undertake an exercise of this complexity and size in a tight time frame.

Sir Peter Gershon CBE FREng
28 August 2008


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Last Modified: 6 June, 2013