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AWS to power Australia’s 2021 online census

PwC Australia, one of two firms appointed by the government to run the next Census, will build and operate an online form and a website on Amazon Web Services

Amazon Web Services (AWS) will host Australia’s next online census exercise in 2021, following a successful bid by PwC Australia and The Adecco Group to deliver a slew of services to help Australians complete the national survey.

PwC Australia will build and operate the services, including an online form and a website, on AWS, which was awarded protected certification by the Australian Cyber Security Centre in January 2019, enabling public and private sector organisations to store and process sensitive data at the protected security classification level.

Although most people will complete their census online, field staff will provide a vital personal connection to ensure every Australian can participate. The Adecco Group is expected to recruit 30,000 temporary field workers in major metropolitan and regional areas across the country.

The winning firms, revealed last week by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), were chosen after a “rigorous selection process” that takes into account their track records.

Chris Liberi, ABS’s acting deputy statistician, singled out PwC Australia’s wealth of experience in managing and protecting sensitive personal information across the government, banking and health sectors.

As for The Adecco Group, Liberi noted that the workforce recruitment firm supported a census exercise in Japan in 2015, and has been appointed to run the 2021 census in England and Wales in the UK. It has also staffed a number of Olympic Games.

Following the appointments, the ABS and PwC Australia will work with critical agencies including the Australian Cyber Security Centre and the Digital Transformation Agency to build a secure solution that manages the high demand anticipated for the 2021 Census.

“Keeping people’s information secure and confidential is the highest priority for the ABS. It was a key factor in the digital services selection process and a critical consideration in the design of Census activities,” Liberi said.

In August 2016, millions of Australians were unable to complete their online census forms when the Census website then was hit by a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack.

IBM, which was paid $9.6m to build the site at the time, had acknowledged responsibility and reportedly paid $30m to the government for the blunder.

A review conducted by the Australian Signals Directorate and the prime minister’s special advisor on cyber security revealed that although the site withstood an initial DDoS attack and was coping with over 7,000 census forms a minute, a second and third attack took it down.

In the aftermath of the incident, some experts questioned why the site was run on a private cloud on IBM SoftLayer rather than on a public cloud service.

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