Government technology procurement is being transformed through the emergence of a ‘Digital Marketplace’ being developed by the Australian Government’s Digital Transformation Office (DTO).

The Marketplace is set to be a ‘one-stop-shop’ for many government purchasers and technology suppliers for supply of digital and technology services. The Digital Marketplace is being developed as part of the Australian Government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda and draws on the ideas, software and learnings from the UK’s digital marketplace service.

After sourcing several hundred technology suppliers to join its digital services professional panel back in March of this year, the DTO recently completed alpha testing of its digital marketplace platform. With release of the beta platform last month, the Digital Marketplace is already allowing government buyers to identify and engage with listed technology suppliers for procurement opportunities across a range of technology-related services. To be eligible, suppliers need to have signed up to the ‘standing’ supply terms in relation to the relevant categories of services within the Marketplace.

Although still under development, the broad objectives of the Digital Marketplace are clearly stated – to make it easier for smaller businesses to compete for the government’s spend on information and communications technology (ICT) products and services. The platform aims to deliver a simpler, more transparent ‘eco-system’ for government to connect with, and purchase from, a broad range of technology businesses and suppliers. It also aims to be innovative and creative, and the DTO have advised that a key feature, due for launch later this year, will be a new feature that will enable government agencies to launch ‘digital challenges’ into the Marketplace, so that suppliers can pitch creative ideas in response.

The Digital Marketplace already contains some useful market data and has the potential, with growth, to become an important part of the Government technology procurement landscape. The beta site contains breakdowns of services categories according to expertise of listed firms, contractual supply terms as well as average (and high-low) rates information, with registered users being granted access to more detailed data and analytics on business transactions in the Marketplace. We can only expect that, as the collection of service data continues to grow over time, the potential of the Marketplace to offer improved transparency and efficiency in government technology purchasing is substantial.

This potential is further increased by last week’s announcement that the DTO will itself ‘transform’ into a Commonwealth agency with a new structure, expanded remit and a new name – the ‘Digital Transformation Agency’ (see DTO to be reborn as a full-grown agency). This is potentially the beginning of something much bigger in the federal government technology space, as the new agency moves to review and potentially re-shape the whole-of-government ICT strategy. This, combined with the upcoming Commonwealth procurement reforms which will see changes to the Commonwealth Procurement Rules providing greater flexibility for government to engage directly with technology suppliers as well as potential legislative reforms enabling tenderers to challenge Commonwealth procurement decisions before the Federal Court, will mean that government technology procurement as we know it, is shaping up for an new era of renewal and change.