The Australian Bureau of Statistics has issued a tender for a supplier to deliver the 2021 Census, seeking “a secure, fast and simple digital service”.
The 2021 Census will be the government’s department second crack at collecting population data online. The first such effort, in 2016, notoriously collapsed.
ABS general manager for census and statistical services Chris Libreri said the department was looking for “highly experienced” suppliers to provide a secure and effective census digital service.
“The ABS is actively managing risks (including cyber) for the 2021 Census and is engaging independent experts to provide assurance on the solution, including the Digital Transformation Agency and the Australian Cyber Security Centre,” he said.
“The aim is to design an online service that is simple and safe to use for all Australians. People who want or need paper forms will also have easy access to them,” Mr Libreri said.
The department said that despite the “regrettable period of outage” of the online form in 2016, those who were able to access and use it found it to be a quick and easy process that reduced the typical time taken to complete the census by 70 percent when compared to completing a paper form.
The ABS also said it had a strong preference for the digital census to be hosted in a cloud environment, in line with the government’s cloud-first policy.
“We are seeking to provide an engaging and secure service hosted on cost effective and proven cloud infrastructure that delivers the experience, performance and resilience expected by all Australians when transacting online", ABS chief information officer Steve Hamilton said.
Despite spending millions on a contract with IBM in addition to services and software licences for load testing, Australia's first online Census failed catastrophically in August 2016. Melbourne-based Revolution IT was also engaged for load testing of the Census systems.
Then-Prime-Minister Malcolm Turnbull ordered a review into debacle caused by a “completely predictable” denial-of-service attacks, questioning whether IBM did enough to prevent disruption. IBM said at the time they "genuinely regret the inconvenience that has occurred".
Submissions for the 2021 digital census tender will be due in October, with a supplier expected to be announced mid-2019.