The NSW Government announced last week eight tender applicants who have won positions as preferred suppliers to implement and manage its whole-of-government network service.
Replacing previously disparate agency network systems, the Government is hoping to develop and standardise an integrated government network service, install a range of switched and point-to-point data links and build a managed LAN/WAN interface service. To this end, the contractors are represented by businesses from the telecommunications industry through to smaller network service providers, including Anite Communications, OzEmail, AAPT, Cable and Wireless Optus, Telstra, Flow Communications, Soul Pattinson Telecommunications and Fujitsu Australia.
Systems integrator Anite was selected on the merits of its regional strength and, according to a spokesperson from the Office of Information Technology, because it "proved it was a strong company that had good backing and worked with a broad range of clients".
According to Anite's senior NSW Government account manager Steven Rushcroft-Smith: "Anite has a breadth of products, we are not aligned to any one manufacturer, so we can manage anything. We have a 24 x 7 network management centre and our core business is network management, distinct from other vendors who aren't so service-oriented."
The NSW office of Information Technology spokesperson said agencies have a choice of migrating to the preferred supplier arrangement. "Different agencies have existing networks they need to review and if they then decide to get Anite to manage their networks we have made it easy for them to go out and buy services from preferred suppliers." The system is also designed to facilitate the process of establishing a network for agencies without an existing infrastructure.
However, the eight contractors were given no guarantee of supply according to the spokesperson. "We didn't give a warranty to these service providers. We made it easier for everyone but it is not an exclusive relationship, and at the end of the day the service providers have to sell their services."
Rushcroft-Smith is adamant that "this agreement only gives us the right to sell. We have to work it hard and work it smart to ensure its success. The onus is now on Anite to market our services to the agencies.
"The Government makes it easier by providing a list of contacts and our first focus will be on agencies that don't yet have a network."
Initial contracts are for three years with an option to extend the agreements each year for an additional two years, according to the Office of Information Technology spokesperson.
The present spate of appointments is in response to the state's "buy not build" philosophy, according to the Minister for Information Technology, Kim Yeadon. This enables the Government to "buy a fully managed service, allowing agencies to focus their attention on core business instead of infrastructure".
The NSW Government believes this type of involvement will encourage IT competition and diversity. "This allows the Government, which currently spends approximately $20 million per annum on data communications, to act as a collective purchaser of services and lower the price of providing services," explains Yeadon. The issue of competitive and diverse IT service provision is especially pertinent in regional Australia and thus needs to be more intimately nurtured by the Government.