“One important component of the agreement has been to enable free calls by the end of the year for many people using a Telstra mobile to call the indigenous, income management and child protection, Basics Card, Rural Agent or Abstudy lines," according to Senator Carr.
The Telstra deal replaces and consolidates 20 earlier telecommunications contracts, and is the latest in a series of initiatives aimed at streamlining the ICT operations of the super department which was formed almost a year ago by merging Centrelink, Medicare and Child Support.
Under the stewardship of chief information officer Gary Sterrenberg, the DHS invests around $756 million in ICT operating costs and $130 million in capital and infrastructure expenditure each year. While it currently operates six data centres it is on a programme that will see that consolidated into three over the next 12 months.
Senator Carr said that the new communications network would allow all calls, email, SMS and other multi-media contacts to be automatically routed to the right staff with the right skills to tackle particular enquiries.
Kevin Noonan, the Canberra based research director for technology analyst Ovum, said that; “We are now starting to see actual delivering on the promise of the merged agency – delivering the benefits of scale. Unified communications are an important part of the puzzle for such a geographically dispersed agency.”
Mr Noonan said he expected to see further announcements of ICT initiatives from the DHS that would continue to leverage its scale.
Paul Geason, group managing director, Telstra Enterprise and Government, said that the single end to end integrated communication platform would allow DHS to offer the most efficient and effective cross agency communication. Telstra will roll out the new network and manage the platform for DHS including the telephony, multi-channel contact centre and video conferencing services.