That sound? The first drops of a cool billion Australian dollars (US$770m, £520m) that the nation's government has started pouring into a honeypot for the world's technology community.
The sweet, sweet pot of dosh is there because Australia has decided it can't go on running Model 204, an eighties database, to run its welfare payments agency Centrelink. The agency sends 180,000 letters and emails, and dispenses $290m, every day. Model 204's doing that handily, but has reached the point at which meaningful changes are becoming tricky.
Model 204's deficiencies have been known since about 2004, but the government now says replacing it will “reboot” Australia's welfare systems, “ boost efficiencies and help advance many welfare reforms”.
"This important long-term investment will allow the Government to properly address the challenges facing Australia's welfare system, maximise the benefits of e-government, reduce the costs of administering the system for taxpayers and help crack down on welfare cheats," said Social Services minister Scott Morrison, in the canned statement.
Marise Payne, Human Services minister, whose portfolio also covers Centrelink, said 'The project will be carried out in multiple tranches, with customers beginning to see benefits of the upgrade at the end of next year” and said confounding complexities in Australia's welfare system can be traced to the current kit.”
Projects of this size don't come along too often, anywhere in the world. It therefore won't be long before execs start boarding the long flights to Australia's capital, Canberra, to figure out how to get their slice of the action.
The Reg's Australian desk expects likes of IBM, HP, CSC and Oracle are natural fits for the gig, but the former's name is dirt in some Australian government circles after a botched project exceeded its budget by more than a billion bucks. Microsoft, Fujitsu and Dimension Data will be in the mix, as all have local clouds. SAP won't be far from the action. And there'll be pressure to involve local business application vendors like TechnologyOne that have a good track record of working with government.
Vulture South is willing to wager a decent bottle of red on the work being done by a consortium, primed by a top-tier multinational. And we'll make it a dozen if the project runs on time.
+Comment Minister for Human Services Scott Morrisson says, in the statement we've linked to above, that “Previous governments have sought to kick the can down the road when it came to making this important investment but the Coalition Government is getting on with the job of building a new system that will benefit all Australians.”
We would be remiss if we did not point out that the last major decision to extend the life of Model 204 was taken by the last Liberal-led government, the party that currently rules Australia and of which Morrisson is a member. Morrisson's colleague, Treasurer Joe Hockey, oversaw the system for three years. Presumably he, and the Labor government that followed, can all considered can-kickers. ®