SA govt pulls back digital spend after pandemic push

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SA govt pulls back digital spend after pandemic push

The SA government is set to pull back spending on whole-of-government digital projects over the next four years, as it tries to maintain a budget surplus in the wake of the pandemic.

In state budget papers handed down on Thursday, the new Labor government revealed a $109 million fall in the Department of Premier and Cabinet’s operating expenses by 2025-26.

The budget papers put the projected decrease primarily down to “once off arts sector expenditure and a reduction in across government digital projects”, without elaborating.

Despite the planned cut, DPC, which holds responsibility for whole-of-government ICT, digital and cyber security, has been a big winner from the last two pandemic-orientated budgets.

In last year’s mid-year budget review, the department scored $53.2 million over four years to accelerate efforts to digitise and streamline public sector services.

The investment followed $20.6 million in the 2021 budget to help protect its systems from cyber attacks, including through the creation of a cyber security operations centre.

The department also scored $18 million in 2020 and 2021 to build out a new front door for online government services, called the SA government online service portal (SAGOV).

The government’s surplus is forecast to reach $643 million in 2025-26, down from a deficit of $1.73 billion this financial year.

Other spending

The budget also offered up little in the way of centrepiece capital projects at other departments and agencies following the creation of the state’s $120 million Digital Restart Fund in 2020.  

The fund doled out $96 million initially, with a further $24 million set aside to accelerate future projects.

But, unlike the digital investment funds in others states like NSW and, more recently, Western Australia, SA’s fund has not been topped up in subsequent budgets.

The biggest winner is the SA Fire and Emergency Services Commission, which will receive $7.2 million for an ICT service migration.

The funding will allow the commission to “maintain the emergency services sector’s ICT software infrastructure... and continued access to Microsoft licensing for volunteers”.

Other new funding includes:

  • $6.4 million for the Department of Energy and Mining to develop a new mining and exploration system;
  • $5 million for the Department of Premier and Cabinet to continue work on expanding the number of government services available online;
  • $2.6 million for the Country Fire Service to implement the new Australian Fire Danger Rating System across South Australia over the next two years;
  • Additional funding of $1.6 million for SA Police to transition to a new expiation over the next two years, with ongoing funding of $483,000 from 2024-25;
  • $280,000 for the Department of Premier and Cabinet to develop a business case for a ‘Digital Technologies Academy’ at Lot Fourteen.
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