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Data and Digital

Goal: Data, technology and digital services enabling the delivery of an outstanding customer experience.

The Data and Digital Group (DDG), partnering with other Bureau Groups, provides a platform to develop and deliver enterprise services and technologies underpinning the Bureau’s delivery to its customers.

The Group consolidates all information technology (IT) and observation technology, software development, and digital and data management. It is instrumental in ensuring the Bureau’s effectiveness, innovation, security and sustainability in meeting customer needs through seamless delivery, from data collection to provisioning. The Group is critical for framing the future of the Bureau, delivering new architecture and capability, and ensuring the Bureau is secure.

For 2020–21, the Group consisted of seven programs with the following responsibilities:

Program

Responsibilities

Planning and Architecture

Technology policies and standards
DDG planning uplift
Demand and pipeline management
Enterprise architecture

Observing Systems and Operations

Operation of the observing network
Observations delivery
Maintenance and sustainment of the network

Data

Data governance, advice and standards
Data management specialised services
Data requirements and quality
Managing data partnerships
Data services

Digital Channels and Customer Experience Design

Customer research and user experience design
User design and prototyping
Digital development
Customer analytics
Digital planning

Application Services

Delivery of ICT applications and platforms
Digital services
Testing and quality assurance

Service and Infrastructure Management

Reliable ICT operations
High-performance computing
ICT support services

Cyber Security

Cyber awareness
Assurance and governance
Cyber security operations

Throughout 2020–21, the Data and Digital Group focused on the delivery of four outcomes that support the delivery of the Bureau’s Strategy and purpose. The Group’s achievement in delivering each of these outcomes is discussed below.

Outcome 1: A globally benchmarked data and digital capability informed by deep customer insight and understanding.

Achieving the outcome

Planning the Bureau’s future observations ecosystem

The Bureau commenced development of an Observations Ecosystem Roadmap to ensure its observations are fit-for-purpose, trusted, adaptive and resilient over the next decade and beyond. Staff undertook broad consultation with customers, suppliers and peer agencies, coupled with environmental scanning of the global scientific and technology environment, to consider a diverse range of customer and service requirements. The roadmap will be published in late 2021.

Uplifting the Bureau’s data capability

Data 2022 and Beyond outlines the Bureau’s approach to uplifting its data capability to ensure alignment of data management activities across its data value chain. Activities undertaken during 2020–21 as part the approach included:

  • completion of an enterprise baseline data maturity assessment and identification of key areas of focus
  • implementation of the Bureau’s Data Stewardship Model to improve the visibility and management of data assets
  • delivery of enterprise training initiatives around data management and digital information management.

In June, the Data Integrity, Advisory and Assurance Committee, an external committee of independent experts, completed its annual review of the Bureau’s data management practices. The Committee’s role is to assess the integrity of the Bureau’s data assets, including practices relating to the measurement, analysis and reporting of observations. The Committee praised the Bureau’s Data Stewardship Model and the progress made in establishing the Data Governance Office.

Highlights and significant events

BOM Weather app keeps top spot

The BOM Weather app consolidated its place as the top-ranked app in the weather category for Australian Google Play and Apple App stores in 2020–21, with ratings on both app stores remaining steady at 4.5 stars.

During the year usage of the app increased to over 1 billion customer interactions, with 2 million active daily users and 662 million sessions.

Over 280 000 reviews and ratings of the app were received during the year which, along with face-to-face testing conducted directly with users and our Beta testing community, has ensured that user needs inform iterative updates and improvements to the app.

Key features delivered during the year included:

  • state-based warnings
  • marine data including the daily waters forecast and tides times
  • hourly wind gust forecast
  • radar coverage and outage visualisation.

Following the successful rollout of the updated app, the original BOM Weather app code and design artefacts will be archived as a piece of software of national significance with the National Archives of Australia.

The updated app is proving popular with users with a 4.5 star rating across platforms.
The updated app is proving popular with users with a 4.5 star rating across platforms.

Next steps

Key activities to be delivered in 2021–22 to help achieve Outcome 1 include:

  • releasing application programming interfaces (APIs) for the website and mobile app
  • implementing actions under the Observations Ecosystem Plan, including the automation of observations at all capital city airports
  • developing tools and training to assist effective and formalised data asset management.

Outcome 2: Secure, stable, resilient, accessible and responsive services all day, every day.

Achieving the outcome

A sustainable approach for the Bureau’s data centres

In March, the Bureau finalised its Data Centre Plan to chart a sustainable approach to the management of its data centre infrastructure and to provide a solid foundation for its High Performance Computing, supporting infrastructure and platform services. Under the plan, the Bureau’s four current data centres will be consolidated into two by November 2023.

The planned approach will ensure that the Bureau’s data centre portfolio can deliver services into the future, ensure compliance with Whole of Australian Government (WoAG) requirements, maintain alignment with Bureau transformation initiatives, and be responsive to external trends and developments in technology, security, data volumes and changing customer needs.

Graphic showing the concept of the Bureau's Data Centre Plan to move towards a distributed, standardised, intelligent and flexible state.
Concept of the Data Centre Plan to move towards a distributed, standardised, intelligent and flexible state.

Technology incident and performance management

The Bureau uplifted its service management maturity during the year through enhancements to technology and incident management processes. The Bureau’s Change Advisory Board oversaw 701 technology changes in 2020–21, compared with 259 in 2019–20.

Greater analysis and management of technology changes is helping to reduce the risk of service interruption and impact to customers while the Bureau’s technology incident management process has helped to reduce outage times by prioritising incidents as they occur.

Infographic showing the uptime of the Bureau's interne services each year. In 2020-21 uptime of the Bureau's internet services was 100%.

Evolving the Bureau’s asset management capability

The Bureau continued to evolve its asset management capability in accordance with its Strategic Asset Management Plan to facilitate data-driven decision-making on asset management and the associated funding requirements. A new Enterprise Asset Management System was piloted in Tasmania and Antarctic stations in May and will be rolled out nationally by September 2021, enabling improved reporting and communication on asset performance.

Working from home during COVID-19 restrictions

During 2020–21, the Bureau supported its staff across Australia to work from home during COVID-19 restrictions by providing remote support, with an 18 per cent increase in end-user services support requests. Around 300 high-priority service requests were fulfilled to support COVID-19 home-based work without impacting Bureau operations. The Bureau also prepared for the nationwide return to office through the development and delivery of an online desk booking application to ensure workspace readiness in line with its COVID-safe plan.

Due to an increased reliance on virtual meetings, the Bureau also commenced an upgrade of its meeting rooms to accommodate new technology. Nationwide, the Bureau is now able to respond quickly and effectively to changing COVID-19 directives as required to maintain operations seamlessly for our customers.

Independent accreditation of Bureau metrology laboratories

In November, the Bureau added temperature metrology to its accreditation for pressure
metrology. The Bureau’s customers expect reliable and accurate measurements of the
environment that can be trusted in even the most extreme weather. Independent accreditation by the National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) of the Bureau’s metrology laboratories has provided assurance to Bureau stakeholders that our measurements of fundamental meteorological parameters meet the exacting standards of international accreditation (ISO/IEC 17025) and are consistent, traceable and accurate. This accreditation helps to ensure that all key field measurements taken across the Bureau’s observations networks covering Australia, its marine areas and territories including Antarctica, are verified to standards calibrated in our laboratories located in Melbourne, and are comparable to measurements made by meteorological services around the globe.

Improving site accessibility at Rundle Island

Following intermittent outages of the automatic weather station on Rundle Island, Queensland, a project to improve access to the weather station through the construction of a new work platform and walkway was completed in November. The site is subject to high levels of exposure from the elements, and erosion had reduced its structural integrity, making it perilous and difficult to access to undertake maintenance and repairs. The improvements to site access will support return to service times in the event of future outages and addresses significant work health and safety risks to technical and maintenance staff. A new automatic weather station was also installed which will improve the performance and reliability of weather observations taken at
the site.

Infographic showing the number of automatic weather stations in the Bureau's observing network. At 30 June 2021, over 700 automatic weather stations were in the Bureau's observing network.

Next steps

Key activities to be delivered in 2021–22 to help achieve Outcome 2 include:

  • rollout of the new Enterprise Asset Management System to remaining Observing Operations Hubs along with system-related processes and operational guidance
  • implementing the Data Centre Plan to ensure a secure, stable and responsive foundation for the High Performance Computing and platform services
  • embedding the Bureau’s technology operating model to drive the delivery of customer value in a secured environment.

Outcome 3: Delivery of end-to-end solutions that optimise performance and efficiency in every process.

Achieving the outcome

Improving radar coverage across Australia

New radars were constructed in Dampier (Western Australia), Brewarrina (New South Wales) and Cullulleraine (near Mildura, Victoria) to provide vital weather information to essential farming and mining communities. Despite significant logistical challenges including COVID-19 travel restrictions and supply interruptions, the Bureau was to deliver all three radars with minimal delays.

The new radar at Dampier was installed in December to replace equipment destroyed by tropical cyclone Damien in February 2020. The new radar is a temporary facility which will operate across the next two years before a long-term replacement is built. Also in December, the first of three new radars for western New South Wales funded by New South Wales Government, was installed at Brewarrina. In Mildura, the radar near the airport was replaced in March, with a new radar located 45 km to the west at Cullulleraine.

As well as the new radars, a significant upgrade of the Kalgoorlie radar was completed in June, improving storm warning prediction, as well as detection of fire-generated thunderstorms and more accurate fire plume height estimation.

Infographic showing the uptime of the Bureau's radar network each year. Real-time radar coverage was available for 97.3% of the year in 2020-21.

Improving observations in one of Queensland’s most important waterways

Two new observing systems were installed in Queensland’s Moreton Bay in early 2021 in response to feedback from the local community. As well as recreational boaters and anglers, Moreton Bay is busy with barges, ferries and water-taxi services, all of which will benefit from more comprehensive weather services.

In April, a new anemometer – a device which measures wind speed and direction – was installed on the Hope Banks beacon in Moreton Bay, in a collaboration with Maritime Safety Queensland, closing a longstanding gap in coverage between the existing weather stations. In February, the anemometer in the Spitfire Channel was also replaced with a new unit on the North West 10 beacon in the far north of the Bay.

Extending the life of the Bureau’s critical systems

Four work packages were completed under the Category 1 Asset Life Extension Project to help stabilise key operational systems and processes within the Bureau. Achievements included implementation of a more resilient solution for remote flood forecasting and warning capability, the upgrade of over 30 virtual application servers and the implementation of database replication technology (Duplica) to the Automated Surface Observations System.

Modernising the Bureau’s observing infrastructure

The Bureau continued to deliver against its Observing Systems Strategy 2014–2020 to improve, modernise and automate how the Bureau collects data, with Automatic Meteorological Balloon Launching Systems (AMBLS) installed at Wagga Wagga, New South Wales in February and Albany, Western Australia in January. In addition, the Observing Operations Hub in Hobart, Tasmania was opened in January, and the Observing Operations Hub in Perth, Western Australia was completed in June to be officially opened in early 2021–22. Seven of eight Observing Operations Hubs planned in the Observing Systems Strategy have now been established.

Uplifting our supercomputer capacity

Delivery and implementation of the mid-term supercomputer capacity upgrade to the high-performance computing environment continued during the year, despite the difficult impacts of the pandemic. The project to deliver a new supercomputer has progressed with its integration into the new enterprise services, networks and security requirements of the Bureau’s new data centre.

The Supercomputer project has reached the end of the seven-year program of work which started in July 2014. The Australian Government’s investment in computing infrastructure has enabled significant improvements to the Bureau’s numerical prediction capability to quantify and forecast weather, climate and other environmental hazards.

Infographic showing the uptime of the Bureau's supercomputer each year. In 2020-21 uptime of the Bureau's supercomputer was 100%.

Highlights and significant events

Replacing the Mildura radar after 30 years of service

After 30 years, the weather radar near the airport in Mildura, Victoria was replaced, with a new radar located 45 km to the west at Cullulleraine. The site of the new radar, atop a hill, provides significantly improved coverage compared with the previous location and provides more accurate weather information for residents north and south of the Murray River and into South Australia’s Riverland – an area which did not previously have radar coverage.

The radar’s technology provides enhanced tracking and measuring of particles in the sky, and has the capability to detect raindrops, hail, bushfire plumes, rain intensity and wind velocity giving more accurate and timely forecasts for agricultural customers, emergency services and the community.

The new Mildura radar located at Cullulleraine.
The new Mildura radar located at Cullulleraine.

New Observing Operations Hub Opens in Hobart

The Minister for the Environment, the Hon Sussan Ley MP, officially opened the purpose-built Observing Operations Hub in Hobart, Tasmania on 13 January, touring the hub and highlighting its importance to the State.

The hub houses highly skilled technical staff to service the full suite of equipment across the Bureau’s observing network, including radars and automatic weather stations, as well as equipment that is vital to the Bureau’s work in Antarctica. Most importantly, this new hub ensures the Bureau has the right staff on the ground to service the Bureau’s infrastructure across the region, which is vital to businesses and the Tasmanian economy.

The new facility features design from local architects and includes the use of local materials such as Tasmanian oak. The meeting rooms are named in the Indigenous palawa kani language with guidance from the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre in recognition of Indigenous custodianship and connection to the land.

Establishment of purpose-built Observing Operations Hubs is central to delivery of the Bureau’s Observing Systems Strategy 2014–2020 to improve, modernise and automate the collection of data.

 The Hon Sussan Ley MP, Senator the Hon Eric Abetz, Senator the Hon Jonathon Duniam, Bureau Data and Digital Group Executive Nichole Brinsmead and Senator Claire Chandler in the Hobart Hub.
L to R: The Hon Sussan Ley MP, Senator the Hon Eric Abetz, Senator the Hon Jonathon Duniam, Bureau Data and Digital Group Executive Nichole Brinsmead and Senator Claire Chandler in the Hobart Hub.

Enabling forecast improvements through increased supercomputing capacity

High-performance computing is the core enabler and principal capability underpinning all the Bureau’s operations. A project to strengthen this capability through a scheduled mid-term upgrade has been a vital to meet the future demands of next generation numerical weather prediction models that will provide improved forecast detail and accuracy. This project is coming to an end, with the commissioning of the upgraded system doubling the computing power and storage of the Bureau’s high-performance computing capability. The new supercomputing environment integrates with strengthened ancillary systems and enterprise services delivered through the ROBUST Program.

The high-performance computing environment has been scaled to not only meet the increasing computational demands of operations, but also the scientific development of new prediction suites, such as the mesoscale National Analysis System. This new suite provides high-resolution, real-time situational analysis of the atmosphere, providing decision-makers information about current conditions and rapidly changing weather patterns across the whole of Australia. Running a suite of this resolution for the whole of the country requires considerable compute capacity. For example, running the Bureau’s largest global model would not be possible without the increased computing and data storage capacity the supercomputer upgrade provides.

The two banks of Cray XC50 compute cabinets that form the 4.0 petaflop Australis II Supercomputer
The two banks of Cray XC50 compute cabinets that form the 4.0 petaflop Australis II Supercomputer.

Next steps

Key activities to be delivered in 2021–22 to help achieve Outcome 3 include:

  • implementing the Radar Roadmap, including constructing and commissioning radars in Hillston and Yeovil in New South Wales, the Upper Burdekin, Taroom and Flinders catchment regions in Queensland, and in Perth and Dampier in Western Australia
  • designing, building and commissioning an Observing Operations Hub in Sydney, the last of eight fit-for-purpose facilities to be established under the Observing Systems Strategy
  • continuing uplift of the Bureau’s service management capability to deliver reporting and metrics to support efficient incident management.

Outcome 4: Sustained operational excellence during and after Transformation Programs.

Achieving the outcome

Improving balloon launching capability across four States

In addition to its routine observing equipment upgrades, a number of existing AMBLS were upgraded through the ROBUST Program to provide improved operational service, increased reliability, and efficient remote support options. During 2020–21, the program replaced four AMBLS nationwide at Cobar in New South Wales, Learmonth in Western Australia, Mount Gambier in South Australia and Weipa in Queensland.

The replacement AMBLS have an increased capacity allowing for the efficient release of a greater number of balloons, making a significant contribution to the sustainability of the Bureau’s upper air program. The new systems also present a simplified maintenance regime, provide more room inside for technical work to be carried out and are fully supported by the vendor.

Establishing a new data centre to protect against service interruption

During 2020–21 the build of a new data centre was completed by the Bureau with the facility expected to become operational in early 2021–22. The deployment of this new data centre and the infrastructure platform it houses will sustain operational activities by providing redundant data centre services and a decreased risk of service interruption by building enhanced infrastructure resilience. The new facility has been built to meet the Australian Government’s Physical Security Policy Framework requirements and supports the Bureau’s Data Centre Plan.

Improving the Bureau’s tropical cyclone forecasting system

The stability of the Bureau’s tropical cyclone forecasting module was vastly improved ahead of the 2020–21 tropical cyclone season as part of the ROBUST Program’s application remediation. The module was updated to use a new application programming interface (also known as API) service and a central database for all of Australia. This allows forecasters in all offices to use the module to access and track tropical cyclones that effect any part of the Australian region.

Delivering service management fit for our new technology environment

Service management maturity was uplifted during the year through the implementation of a supply vendor reporting tool, a business-to-business interface for new vendors to manage services around the clock, and development of a configuration management database to facilitate the Bureau’s new technology environment required by the ROBUST Program.

Highlights and significant events

Continuing to uplift the Bureau’s cyber security capability

The Bureau continued to uplift its cyber security culture and to deliver against its Cyber Security Roadmap 2025.

Regular editions of the Cyber News Bites newsletters were published for Bureau staff, providing cyber news stories, tips and advice. The Information Systems Security training course was launched in October and completed by 97 per cent of staff.

Editions of Cyber News Bites newsletter that keep staff up to date with security issues.
Editions of Cyber News Bites newsletter that keep staff up to date with security issues.

Five cyber security procedures were published, including the Secure Coding procedure which coincided with the Bureau’s successful participation in the Australian Bureau of Statistics ‘Secure Code Warrior’ competition to foster software developer knowledge of secure coding practices.

The Bureau also established a security testing capability to enable regular vulnerability scanning, undertook firewall clean-up and uplift, and implemented new security processes.

In April, the Bureau went to market to procure a 24/7 Cyber Security Operations Centre which will provide the capability to reduce cyber incidents, detect and respond to issues and events. Assessment of procurement responses and implementation of the solution will continue in 2021–22.

ROBUST delivers final wind profiler at Sydney airport

The Bureau has completed the modernisation of its wind profilers to ensure it continues to provide reliable data services into the future forecasting models.

The wind profiler upgrades at Launceston and Sydney airports in November and December 2020 respectively, marked the completion of the ROBUST Program’s work to upgrade the four wind profilers that had outlasted their expected service life and were no longer supported by the manufacturer.

Wind profilers are vertical-looking radar systems that determine the wind velocity and direction at different elevations above the ground. The wind profiler gives meteorologists the ability to monitor winds in real-time and adjust the aviation forecast should it be needed to ensure the safety of aircraft as they land.

The upgrades included hardware, operating systems, equipment huts (as required), associated electrical infrastructure, antenna arrays and fencing. Site environmental assessments were conducted where needed to protect flora and fauna.

With various state border restrictions in place at different times during the pandemic, the project team was closely monitoring the situation across four states – Bureau engineering resources in Victoria, the wind profiler equipment vendor in South Australia, and the final two installation sites in Tasmania and New South Wales.

Sydney Airport wind profiler.
Sydney Airport wind profiler.

Next steps

Key activities to be delivered in 2021–22 to help achieve Outcome 4 include:

  • continuing to drive cyber security maturity uplift, including through strengthening identity and access management controls and implementing the Cyber Security Operations Centre functionality
  • establishing a new management team within the Group to oversee the implementation of new technologies and capabilities established through the ROBUST Program
  • transitioning active projects from the Public Services Transformation Program into operational service
  • continuing to deliver the upgrade of the Observations Network under the ROBUST Program.