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Census and Centrelink debacles a wakeup for government’s DTA

21 February 2017
Supratim Adhikari
The Australian

The last six to eight months have been difficult for the government’s digital transformation agenda. From the botched Census 2016 project to the latest acrimony about the Centrelink overpayment recovery program — it’s been a series of speed bumps attracting plenty of criticism from the public and public servants. 

But the man in charge of keeping all things digital in Canberra on an even keel, Assistant Minister for Digital Transformation Angus Taylor, isn’t about to change course despite the tumult. If anything Mr Taylor is looking forward to added workload of the newly christened Digital Transformation Agency, which will provide ongoing oversight of the government’s $6.2 billion annual ICT spend.

Mr Taylor said the recent missteps and the resultant sound and fury hasn’t been a good look for the government but that they don’t tell the full story.

“Hiccups do happen and often the bigger the IT project is the bigger the problem,” Mr Taylor said.

“The public understands that there will be issues along the way but what they really want to see is constant improvement.”


Mr Noonan points to the ‘‘Census 2016’‘debacle and the controversy around Centrelink’s robo-debt recovery initiative as examples of where the fundamental role of the technology is misunderstood.

“They may have done a great job with the data matching but the implementation has been done with little understanding of the impact of this on the recipients, it’s simply become a blunt instrument and that has consequences,” Mr Noonan said.