The Government Services stream at Australia 3.0 in 2014 will be run as an ‘ideation’ session for a thoughtful dialogue on the future role of technology in driving better Government service delivery outcomes by use of Big Data Analytics and Open Data analysis. Related underpinning issues such as skills of the future, privacy concerns and security dimensions will also be covered. A series of questions will be posed in this dialogue, starting with:
Question 1 – what is the role of Government?
The digital transformation of recent decades has been almost entirely driven by dynamic, competitive markets and inventive entrepreneurs. While governments in many places have attempted to use policy intervention to build technology-intensive economies or nurture national champions, the majority have found success elusive, underlining the importance of evidence and pragmatism in appraising the role the public sector can play.
At the same time, the public sector as a whole accounts for about a third of GDP, and many programs are impossible to execute without effective use of ICT. For these reasons, public services are an obvious place where policy can provide leadership.
Question 2 – What are the Major Challenges to be addressed to drive productivity in Government Services delivery?
Question 3 – Government ICT Policy – What are the limiting factors on Engagement and Open Government?
The government has promoted a policy position that leverages the Internet to engage more effectively with citizens or other stakeholders, including via social media. Policies areas targeted include increasing transparency via more detailed or frequent data. Policies to make accumulated public data sets (in a form which strips out personal information) accessible to private users and developers who can generate new value from them. All of the above adapt traditional decision-making and aversion to disclosure to a more open, interactive environment
Question 4 – What limits opening up Government Data?
Despite calls from both Federal and State Ministers, Australia appears to be relatively slow to “open up” data sets, falling behind some countries such as the USA and the UK. There are many reasons why this may be the case. Often data custodians are concerned about the unintended consequences of release of data (in particular, the impact on individual privacy). The cost of making data available is also a consideration. Concerns about data quality and the conclusions which will be drawn from incomplete or inaccurate data is also a concern. What are the most important actions we can take to help facilitate release of data?
Question 5 – What is the role of publically funded innovation in terms of driving Productivity?
Policies encouraging innovation, funding research and providing incentives for entrepreneurs are very important over the medium term in developing a more sophisticated economic base. The Government spends $8.8 billion annually on scientific, medical and academic research and R&D incentives for private research and development of about $18 billion a year. This is a significant long-term influence on the technological makeup of our economy. There are large variations in the measurable economic returns from different fields of research and between more commercially oriented and less commercially oriented research settings.
Question 6 – What are the workforce and skills challenges that need to be solved in achieving improved Government service delivery?
With a move to greater focus on digital delivery of Government services there are inherently a series of workforce and skill challenges that need to be addressed. On the demand side the level of digital capability and literacy will be a critical success factor. More significantly from a design perspective, there will be a range of new skills and capabilities that need to be introduced into Government agencies to achieve a positive digital transformation. Some of these new skills may involve a blending of existing workplace skills and the adoption of new ways of doing things. It is likely that new job roles and responsibilities will need to be created. The role that both industry and research/academia can play in assisting this transition should be considered.
Ian Oppermann and Ian Birks
Australia 3.0 Government Services Stream Leaders