DEPARTMENT OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND TRADE AUSTRALIA
1 November 2000
Australian Diplomatic Communications Network (ADCNET) Project
An article in the Sun-Herald of 29 October concerning the Australian Diplomatic Communications Network (ADCNET) contained fundamental errors that might have been prevented if the Department had been consulted in its preparation.
ADCNET was leading edge technology at the commencement of its deployment in 1993. It remains in place today as a key element of the Government's Diplomatic Communications Network, including at 61 embassies, high commissions and consulates.
A 1998 ANAO audit of the management of the ADCNET project accepted that ADCNET had delivered the benefits and functionality expected by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The results of a recent Foreign and Trade Ministry Best Practice Review, which benchmarked the efficiency of DFAT services compared to seven other comparable countries, concluded that DFAT is still ahead of most of the other ministries it surveyed in its provision of a wide range of IT applications to staff.
The industry standard is that IT systems are replaced every three to five years. The fact thatADCNET is likely to enjoy an operational life of around 10 years before it is phased out underlines both the value-for-money it has delivered and its operational robustness.
The claim in the article that the project budget blew out is incorrect. The ANAO report accepted that ADCNET had been implemented within the funding levels agreed with the then Department of Finance, although it had been subject to some slippage in the time-lines of some products. ADCNET was successful in delivering significant productivity savings to the Department. It had been planned that 50 staff positions could be withdrawn from overseas as a result of ADCNET but, in fact, these targets were exceeded with 62 positions withdrawn.
The Department has begun implementation of a new communications system to replace ADCNET known as SATIN (Secure Australian Telecommunications and Information Network) which has been deployed in Canberra and will be introduced progressively to overseas missions. Like ADCNET, it will provide a secure network for encrypted government communications with overseas posts.
The development of SATIN does not reflect any dissatisfaction with ADCNET but the reality that, over time, all IT systems become obsolete and need to be replaced. SATIN will utilise commercially available software and standard hardware systems that were not available with the required level of security at the time of the development of ADCNET.
Media contact: Matt Francis (02) 6261 1555