Whole of Government record-keeping program nears “alpha” phase

The Department of Finance has issued a two year, $1 million contract with the Australian National University (ANU) to refine and test a fundamental element of its Digital Records Transformation Initiative, the Australian Government Records Interoperability Framework (AGRIF).

The ANU research is scheduled to continue until December 2020. Meanwhile Finance has begun a program in collaboration with the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) to “co-design” a new approach to record-keeping across Australian Government. This will seek to automate common records management tasks through the application of semantic technologies and machine learning.

While the co-design process is being undertaken, a moratorium on new investment in records management solutions by Commonwealth agencies remains in place until June 2019. Agencies continue to be able to upgrade their existing solutions.

When asked for an expected completion date for the whole exercise, the Department did not provide a date, merely responding: “We are using an Agile Project Methodology and anticipate that the discovery and alpha elements of the co-design process will be finalised by mid-April.”

The "Whole of Government Records Management as a Service (WoG RMaaS)" project (as it was then known) was allocated $A9.1M in the 2016-17 Budget.

The department will not identify which vendors are taking part in the process of establishing a new Whole-of-Government arrangement for purchasing records management technology. It selected the initial participants from a “representative sample” of the 29 responses it received from industry and government to its Discussion Paper issued in November 2018. The responses have not been made public.

Job applications were recently advertised for a Senior User Researcher and Senior Service Designer for the co-design project, working from January to March 2019, with an extension if required

According to a Finance statement, the co-design process “is not an approach to market, but it will lead to a sourcing approach. The co-design process will include face-to-face user research sessions (individual meetings), communities of practice and workshops.”

“Finance is developing a maturity model based on several dimensions of capability with the aim of improving government’s investment on information management, and enabling vendors to develop and offer solutions to meet the changing business requirements of government.

“This model is intended to describe the capability of the Australian Government and industry. Requirements are expected to be further refined; and additional requirements added through the co-design process.”

A preferred approach to sourcing record-keeping systems will be determined through the co-design period, which may or may not culminate in a Request for Proposal (RFP).

Finance has also sought to deny that it hopes to emerge with a single solution or “suitable solution”, or that it intends co-designing its own.

“This is not the intent of the Initiative, as the Commonwealth is seeking to establish a whole of Government sourcing arrangement with a number of vendors that have a range of appropriate capabilities.”

The Australian Government Records Interoperability Framework (AGRIF) being refined and tested at the ANU is envisaged as a fundamental element of the new era for record-keeping, providing “a semantic information model (or ontology) that clarifies the meaning of data associated with the structure and functions of the Australian Government.”

The testing phase will last from 2-Jan-2019 to 23-Dec-2020, according to the contract.

When asked if this testing will need to be completed before a Whole-of-Government sourcing arrangement is put in place, the department responded: “The development of the sourcing arrangements will not be dependent upon testing of the AGRIF, although both contribute to the objectives of the DRTI.”