New ICT procurement rules aim to increase small business role

By David Donaldson

Tuesday April 9, 2019

The federal government hopes its new ICT procurement policies will improve flexibility, increase innovation and enable more small business participation. Plus a new guide to digital projects across the country.

Coming into effect from 1 July, the policies will require agencies to make more considered investment decisions, simplify panel procurements and increase fairness in digital sourcing. The aim is to enable more companies to sell to government regardless of their size or previous experience with government.

Three new sourcing policies — the Consider First Policy, the Panels Policy and the Fair Criteria Policy — will supplement the capped term and value policy as part of the Digital Sourcing Framework.

The Consider First Policy aims to help agencies make more considered investment decisions, and must be applied to any investment in digital products and/or services with an expected or realised whole-of-life cost in excess of $80,000. It is underpinned by five principles:

  • Be user-centred and prioritise usability
  • Allow room for innovation
  • Engage early and consult widely
  • Consider the whole-of-life cost
  • Align with whole-of-government requirements

One of the most successful previous examples of procurement reform is the role of the Digital Marketplace in supporting small and medium-sized enterprises win more government business, added Minister for Human Services and Digital Transformation Michael Keenan.

“To date, over 1300 opportunities have led to more than $370 million worth of contracts being awarded through the Digital Marketplace,” he said.

“Of these opportunities, 73% of the contracted value has been awarded to small and medium enterprises.”

The government has simplified contracting arrangements to make it easier for buyers and sellers to come together and find innovative solutions to meet their needs, the minister noted.

“We have also recently created a digital sourcing network to encourage greater communication, collaboration and knowledge-sharing for those in the APS involved in ICT procurement and digital sourcing,” Keenan said.

“The network will be a place to find solutions, learn from the experience of others, meet with experts and learn how best to engage with industry regarding digital sourcing.”

State of the digital nation

The new cross-jurisdictional Australian Digital Council has released the State of the Data and Digital Nation report, a stocktake of projects across the country.

Published last week, it provides case studies of projects at the Commonwealth level and in different states, which the government hopes will facilitate cross-jurisdictional collaboration.

Since the formation of the Australian Digital Council last year, work on a range of cross-jurisdictional projects has already begun. For example, South Australia and the Commonwealth agreed in December to collaborate on the development of a digital identity solution. The agreement will ensure interoperability of both state and federal systems and significantly reduce development costs.

The Australian Parliamentary Library also recently published Public sector digital transformation: a quick guide, looking at a variety of recent and current digital transformation initiatives in the federal public sector.

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