by Byron Connolly

NSW Parliament’s tech chief shares details of $14M in IT projects

Mar 17, 2015 4 mins

The Parliament of NSW is establishing its core SharePoint services in the cloud and will digitise the state’s oldest records in two of several IT projects worth almost $14 million.

Australia’s oldest parliament is dumping its ageing IBM Domino platform and creating a SharePoint environment for 1000 users that is being accessed using Office 365 hosted at Microsoft’s data centre in Sydney. The $4.9 million project is expected to be completed by June 2016.

Since 1996, Domino had underpinned parliament’s website, intranet, hansard and house paper document production systems and more than 100 other IT platforms.

Simon Chalmers, director of information services at the Department of Parliamentary Services, said many other parliaments are using SharePoint so there’s real opportunity to share common systems and minimise development costs.

The move will also provide long-term efficiency and productivity gains, particularly by changing hansard and house paper production processes using features supported by the new platform, Chalmers said.

He said that the organisation won’t be migrating its Microsoft Exchange environment of Office 365 at this stage.

“Unlike SharePoint, where the Parliament does not have any existing investment in legacy infrastructure, we do have an existing investment in an on-premise Exchange environment and there’s no compelling reason to shift just yet,” Chalmers said.

The parliament’s approach takes into account the sensitivity of data that will be hosted in the cloud, he said.

“Shifting MP’s personal email data to Office 365 will involve far greater consultation with MPs to address any concerns they might have about their data being externally hosted,” he said. Still, Chalmers said hosting email in the cloud is the next logical step for the future.

Meanwhile, parliament is replacing all network and routing infrastructure, which connects electorate offices to Parliament House and the internet, in another $4.9 million project. Parliament is deploying Riverbed network optimisation and monitoring technology.

This readies the Parliament to make better use of cloud technologies through the use of network acceleration technology and better network monitoring systems.

“These improvements address concerns that would otherwise exist as to the adequacy of bandwidth for cloud applications across a network such as parliament’s, which is highly distributed and operates across rural areas,” he said.

“Consequential improvements in productivity are expected for members and their staff working in electorate offices.”

Records to be digitised

A $1.4 million project – running until November this year – will digitise parliament’s archival records, some of which are significant to the early history of government in Australia and New Zealand.

Valued at more than more than $23 million, these records date from 1824 and cover the period when the colonies of Australia and New Zealand were administered from NSW.

Gosford Micrographics commenced the digitisation process in December 2014. Documents are being scanned to TIF and PDF image format while typeset documents are also being processed using OCR software to enable text searchability, Chalmers said.

“Different techniques are being used as part of the scanning process based on the age and condition of documents and whether they are single page or bound items,” he said.

Basic metadata is being captured by Gosford Micrographics at the image of imaging, based on specification provided by parliament.

“A team of internal parliamentary staff are then adding further metadata based on their specialist knowledge of these kinds of documents,” said Chalmers.

The public will have full, online access to these records for the first time, he said.

Finally, a new computerised storage system has been installed to preserve Australia’s largest collection of books and archives, valued at more than $39 million. The $2.59 million, two year project is set to be completed by June.

These records are now stored in a centrally-managed secure location, rather than across five locations.

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