Government CIO Role Still Developing, but Australia Ahead of the Pack

Government CIO Role Still Developing, but Australia Ahead of the Pack

National governments continue creating whole-of-government CIO positions, but Australia remains ahead of the pack.

Gartner government research managing vice president John Kost says Australia appointed a whole-of-government CIO before most other nations. Although a few other countries have advanced the role further, he says Australia stands out in having granted more authority to the position. This represents a major investment in the role and ensures current occupant Ann Steward has the moral authority to make important gains. And Kost says Steward's position in the Department of Finance is also important to her authority and the opportunities she has to make an impact.

"Ultimately, Finance controls the purse strings and any IT policy decisions that have to be made have to be enforced and that's where the Department of Finance becomes very important," Kost says.

These are Kost's conclusions after reviewing Gartner's survey, in the fourth quarter of 2005, of every known national whole-of-government CIO in the world to discover approaches to creation of the role of a national government CIO.

The research shows governments worldwide continue to create whole of government CIO positions, while roles continue to develop. Governments can give the CIO many different responsibilities.

"As the role of the CIO evolves in government, two different types of CIO jobs are emerging," the ensuring report found. "In the first, the primary responsibility is for IT policy and advising government transformation, but the position isn't responsible for the implementation or operation of infrastructure. In the second, the CIO has responsibility for the ownership and operation of the information and communications technology infrastructure and plays a role in policy and transformation.

"Although we list the pros and cons for each CIO responsibility, the absence of alternative approaches working in existing governments suggests that empowering the CIO with many of these responsibilities will inherently improve how IT is managed in government."

And that is where Australia stands out. Kost says Steward's role - unlike those of her state and local governments counterparts who remain focused on operational matters - increasingly revolves around policy. That is, she has the power to contribute to transforming the government.

"This is still a work in progress in a lot of other places," Kost says. "Like Australia, the person who holds the position in the United States is part of the budget office, and she is very involved in the transformational kinds of stuff. There are places such as South Africa, and such as Singapore, where the position has a great deal of operational authority for the various parts of the ICT infrastructure. We think ultimately, many of the national government CIO positions will involve towards not just policy responsibility but towards more operational responsibility as many US states, Canadian provinces and apparently increasingly the Australian States will begin the move towards this is a well."

Kost says the key message for government is to keep going and not to look back.

"I think the key message is for those in government outside IT area," he says. "That is, you don't have to be a techie to understand the importance of what IT can do for the transformation of the service delivery. So it's important to understand the role of IT even if you don't understand the IT.

"And I think the executives of government, the program and business leaders need to spend a little bit more time understanding what can be done as a result of the power of technology in this decade."

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