Lacking investment in ICT systems in government agencies slowed the state’s responses during the coronavirus pandemic, a parliamentary committee has heard.
TasICT president Martin Anderson expressed to the Public Accounts Committee last week that the government was in desperate need of an upgrade its ICT infrastructure to enhance service delivery.
He said an upgrade within government agencies would create work for local businesses who had cut jobs and budgets.
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Mr Anderson said underinvestment in ICT infrastructure had put Tasmania further behind the other states in territories in the digital sector.
“There are so many services that you can’t access online in Tasmania that you are starting to be able to do in other jurisdictions,” he said.
“If we were to go into another period of lockdown, there are a lot of things that couldn’t be done here, that could be done in other places.
“I am aware that some agencies were slow to move to accepting information digitally.”
Mr Anderson acknowledged the perceived risk of moving services online was high.
“Within the Tasmanian public service there is a great deal of concern about moving to digital services,” he said.
“There is an awareness of cyber security risks at the moment, which is totally true, and the change that is required is disruptive, so doing little projects is considered too risky.”
He said the state’s reaction to the coronavirus pandemic laid bare a lack of ICT infrastructure after paper-based systems slowed emergency responses and delivery of essential services.
“I definitely think that the underinvestment has particularly bitten us now, as we try to respond to COVID-19,” Mr Anderson said.
“We see that the under-investment has a real material impact on Tasmanians.
“For example, COVID-19 is a perfect storm from that point of view, because we believe that Tasmania is the only state and territory government without a digital health strategy.”
He said Tasmanian businesses should be supplied with a cybersecurity assistance package by government as more goods and services moved online.
The Premier’s Economic and Social Recovery Advisory Council in its interim report recommended the government address digital inclusion across Tasmania.
It said this should include addressing critical regional mobile and internet black spots and making devices available to disadvantaged Tasmanians at little to no cost to help them engage in education and employment or with support services.