Joined Up Government

Joined Up Government

With state government IT leaders across Australia working out of new playbooks prescribing greater use of shared services as the way to boost efficiency and slash costs, comes word of a fascinating experiment being carried out in Denmark.

Carrying the concept of shared services and the virtual town hall to at least one version of a logical conclusion, numbers of Danish municipalities have embraced the concept of the virtual town hall in a kind of ultimate vision of joined up government.

As reports, the vision “involves transcending spatial boundaries to achieve joined up administration behind the scenes, while preserving distinct political arenas and a citizen-centric focus in each jurisdiction.”

Most state governments in Australia are now at least exploring the concept of shared services, clear in their minds about the potential they offer for significant change management of IT and other corporate services, if not about the potential risks.

The Danish experiment would seem to carry this one step further. If departments and agencies within a state can consider pooling applications, infrastructure and resources, this experiment asks, why must a state government have a unique and complete administrative architecture to address its mission? If shared services and interoperability offer scope for pooling capacity and savings costs, could not the model embrace multiple jurisdictions both within and across various levels of government?

Governments of all shapes and sizes around the world are going through a time when tight budgets are being matched up against significantly increased calls for expenditure on critical services such as education and health care. That puts pressures on technology leaders like never before.

And while there is no simple or proven recipe for successful leadership in a downturn, new technologies, and especially open systems, are offering new hope of fresh solutions.

Resource pooling and application sharing amongst state and local governments must offer one possible way to go, even if we are a long way from achieving the Danish vision. Where government technology leaders have routinely visited their peers in other jurisdictions to examine the way they have addressed similar problems, in future they may be more likely to be asking if they can hitch a ride rather take only inspiration back home. This is becoming an increasing trend in the United States. For instance when the Kansas Department of Education was looking for a new software package, it found just what it needed in neighbouring Missouri. Missouri’s education department was using a high-end program to manage grants made to school districts. Kansas needed software to do something similar, so Missouri ? no doubt recognising that looking after your friends can be an essentially selfish act ? gave Kansas the software code for free. No doubt Kansas will find a way to repay the gesture in the future.

The future possibilities seem endless, the risks large but manageable. What this new vision means for the future role of CIOs in Government departments in Australia and around the world, however, remains to be seen.

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