Tasmania’s tech industry says the Government urgently needs to update its websites

(By ABC state political reporter Alexandra Humphries)

A man holds a mobile phone with a desktop version of the TFS website.
TasICT president Martin Anderson says the Tasmanian Government urgently needs to update the fire service website.(ABC News: Alexandra Humphries)

Tasmania’s Information and Communications Technology (ICT) industry says the State Government is trailing behind the rest of the country on delivering online services and warns that in some cases it poses a public safety risk.

Key points:

  • The Tasmania Fire Service website is not mobile phone friendly, which experts say can make it dangerous in an emergency
  • Tasmania’s tech industry says the State Government’s websites are behind the rest of Australia
  • The Government says previous governments have underinvested and it is prioritising urgent investments

Fern Tree resident John Simpson and his neighbours go on high alert when summer hits, knowing just how quickly a fire in the foothills of kunanyi/Mt Wellington could spread.

He is reliant on the Tasmania Fire Service (TFS) website, which still has not been upgraded to be mobile-friendly.

“I think because we’re all quite scared up here that there could be some sort of repeat of the ’67 bushfires, we’re always really cautious about what could happen,” Mr Simpson said.

“It does seem a bit strange that it doesn’t work as it should on a mobile phone, because everyone these days accesses sites like these on a mobile anyway.”

Fires in parts of Tasmania last January meant Mr Simpson was constantly checking whether his home was in harm’s way.

“I was just finding it was quite difficult to actually see the map and exactly where the locations were and what the alerts were and all the rest,” he said.

“When you hear that there are bushfires in your area, I think anyone has a bit of a panic, and any information that’s easy to receive and easy to understand and view is always going to be a positive.

“The harder it is to get that information the more the panic sets in.”

TasICT president Martin Anderson said it was crucial for the Government to upgrade the platform.

“The vast majority of Tasmanians have mobile phones and we know that they use them in an emergency, and it’s vital that information about where fires are is easily available and easy to interpret on a small screen,” he said.

“The reality is that this is an investment that needs to be made to support public safety.”

Industry says sector isn’t ‘getting the focus it needs’

Mr Anderson said Tasmania was falling behind the rest of Australia on delivering digital services, and “has been for some time,” primarily due to a lack of investment by the Tasmanian Government.

He said the coronavirus pandemic had highlighted that many services still have to occur face-to-face at Service Tasmania, rather than being done online.

“It’s a real risk in this time when we’re trying to socially distance and people should be staying at home,” he said.

“It’s a level of service delivery that’s out of step with the rest of Australia.”

Mr Anderson said it was also problematic that the Tasmanian Government was paying to host and maintain about 342 active websites.

He said tas.gov.au site was 16 years old — older than the iPhone.

A mobile screenshot of the Tasmania Fire Service website
The TFS website is not optimised for use on mobile phones.(Screenshot)

“What the Tasmanian IT industry sees is that there’s a lack of coordination in IT procurement across the Tasmanian Government,” Mr Anderson said.

“There’s a very scattergun approach to IT service delivery from the Tasmanian Government, which means that there’s lots of duplication across different agencies, and there’s no long-term roadmap.

“This is key digital infrastructure for Tasmania, and it’s not getting the focus that it needs.”

Science and Technology Minister Michael Ferguson said previous governments had underinvested in the IT sector, and since being elected in 2014, the Government had prioritised “critically urgent” investments in cybersecurity and updated data storage services.

Mr Ferguson pointed to the recently released Our Digital Future strategy and said the Government had begun working to implement the strategy.

“The high-level principles and objectives of Our Digital Future were informed by international, national and local research, trends and industry collaboration,” he said.

“The strategy reflects the drivers, vision and future goals articulated in the Digital Foundations Business Case.”

Mr Anderson said the strategy did not go far enough, with no budgets or dates attached to the goals outlined.