A 'digital first' strategy will drive NSW's ICT program into the New Year with a renewed focus on mobile apps, data analytics, and internet technologies in the lead up to a March 2015 election.
Minister for Finance and Services Dominic Perrottet told CIO the blueprint will deliver on digital leadership, break down silos of information and encourage “new ways of doing things.”
The biggest obstacle to going digital is “looking at things in the same old way,” Perrottet said.
“Government generally is set in its ways. It’s now about driving innovation and coordination across organisations.”
The digital roadmap does not involve big-bang ICT spending programs, but a more astute use of available technologies and coordination between cluster agencies, he said.
“When we came to government, we inherited a system with 400 shopfronts, 100 call centres, 8,000 different government phone numbers and 1,000 different web sites. I mean, really, that was not set up with the citizen in mind.”
The focus now is to make it easier for citizens to interact and transact with government.
“Why do people need to take days off work to get a form?" he asks. “In a digital environment, citizens can transact at a time and place of their own choosing. This interaction is on-line, and through integrated web sites or mobile apps.”
Web services go mainstream
When people interact with government, they may have a negative experience, he said. “We’re trying to turn that on its head [through digital reforms]. The message is we’re just as IT-savvy and efficient as the private sector.
Minister Perrottet flagged Service NSW as the administration’s most recent success story.
Launched last year, this site now connects the networks of 14 high-volume transactions agencies and more than 800 transaction types are supported online. These include applying for birth certificates through to driver licences, seniors’ cards or paying fines.
Gaining buy-in for Service NSW as a digital concept took time and effort in convincing the stakeholders.
“It started slowly but the momentum has built up. When people and agencies actually see results, they say it’s an efficient model,” Perrottet said.
Embracing the digital economy
Embracing change and laying the groundwork for a digital economy is high on the agenda. “We’re emerging as a leader for digital and open data,” he said.
“But government generally is set in its ways. People have done things, in the same way, and as far as they are concerned, it works.”
A change in mindset has involved working closely with ICT advisory board and the industry to open up discussion and attract ideas.
“In finance and services, we’ve got the IT guys, but they may not be as experienced in transport, health or justice. You need a combination of IT and deep knowledge of portfolio agencies,” he said.
Under its outreach, the administration sees closer collaboration with the private sector, while drawing on commercially-focused models.
“We’re open to ideas. Rather than saying ‘it’s all a bit too tough’ the better option is saying ‘look, we don’t have all the answers, but we’re open to your ideas.’ We want to look at ways in which the private sector can engage with us.”
Sharing data with private sector
Sharing government data with the private sector is core to successful service planning and delivery.
“There is considerable interest in the business community with how they can use government data,” he said.
“We’ve been crowdsourcing and also seeking feedback with the industry. This provides points of contact and engagement that can be fed back to internal advisory boards. It’s about building coordination between the public and private sectors.”
Perrottet said there was “standing room only” at a recent industry meeting about sharing government data.
“We can engage the private sector and say ‘here’s the data, go out and come back with a solution in terms of a product that will benefit citizens.”
On the privacy front, he said data is being shared in a considered way. “We’re not saying ‘it’s all here.’ But it’s being done in a way where you get the ideas, you provide the data, you assess it and build on it. Our focus is able to help citizens.”
The Office of Finance and Services sees an oversight role with pulling in data from different agencies and data-sets. Slicing and dicing this data and using it meaningfully involves going to market for expertise.
“We see data as a really valuable asset,” he said. “A lot of people don’t realise how important that data is; we are a central agency and we are keen to do something there, in an open data environment.”