Page 3371 - Week 11 - Wednesday, 18 September 2013

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It is also why we strongly disagree with the new federal government’s decision to cut funding to NICTA by $42 million over two years. The ACT government is a founding member of NICTA, in partnership with the ANU, the University of New South Wales and the New South Wales government. Our government’s strong relationship with NICTA dates back to 2001, with funding of $26.35 million over the period 2002 to 2012. Further, an increase in funding of $12 million for the period 2012 to 2016 was provided for in the 2012-13 budget.

Our long-term commitment to NICTA recognises the important contribution it makes to the ACT and the national economy. NICTA is a critical player in the ACT innovation system and a key partner in the ACT government’s drive to establish Canberra as a centre for world-class ICT research, business development and usage. The outcome of the new federal government removing funding from NICTA will be far reaching both across the ACT economy and the community.

The health portfolio is one area where the sheer volume of digital technology activity shows why pulling investment from ICT is a bad idea. The ACT government’s healthy future initiative has a budget of $90 million. This investment has been directed at building our e-health capacity and providing patients with a greater say in how their personal health information can be used. We have already seen a reduction in waste of time associated with multiple paper-based systems and important improvements to safety and quality of health care.

The healthy future program incorporates a large range of innovative ICT projects all designed to make efficiencies and improvements in patient care. They include find a health service, which provides easy, online access to information about health services in Canberra and the surrounding region; clinical information systems within ACT intensive care units, the Capital Region Cancer Service, the ACT Renal Service and community-based services; integration of the ACT with the national e-health initiatives, including the national e-health record system, common patient administration and support systems across ACT public hospitals; improved electronic order entry for medical imaging at Canberra Hospital; new ICT infrastructure and free wi-fi in areas of the hospital—and I see that that was turned on for the public recently in the emergency department, I think yesterday or maybe the day before—better tools for the management of referrals with community-based services, systems for the electronic management of pathology orders, medications and specimen collection; and better systems for management of clinical records across the portfolio.

Separate to these initiatives, the government is also supporting the $3.1 million identity access and management initiative, allowing clinicians, nurses and staff to move around the hospital campus and enter data or check records with minimal delay, and the $5.7 million digital mammography project providing higher quality images, less radiation exposure for patients and less risk for staff.

The common denominator in all of these projects is the need for highly skilled software engineers, programmers, web developers and designers, privacy and security experts. To cut funding to one of Australia’s major breeding grounds for these critical skills is to undermine our ability to carry out these improvements with local expertise.

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