Over 150 government CIOs were kept at the edge of their seats as an intense debate on “My e-government is better than yours” unfolded at the 10th annual FutureGov Summit.
At the beginning of ‘The Great Debate’, the audience was polled. 68 per cent of delegates thought that Australia’s e-government is better, versus 32 per cent who supported Europe.
Peter Reichstadter, Head of Digital Austria at Federal Chancellery and Graham Bell, CIO of City of London formed Team Europe.
Bell cited Europe’s success in rolling out enhanced citizen services while reducing costs, particularly in the last four to five years when austerity has pushed government to be more innovative. “Consistently throughout all parts of London, residents’ satisfaction and view of the local government has gone up from 40 per cent to almost 80 per cent,” he said.
While Australia had a head start in e-government, Reichstadter argued that Europe has improved and surpassed its counterpart. He listed some of the more impressive projects: “We managed to implement electronic ID cards for 1.3 million residents. Moreover, 25 per cent of the population have voted online, 96 per cent have declared taxes online, and you can establish a company online within 20 minutes.”
Team Australia fought their case strongly. The team made up of Kieran O’hea, Chief Digital Officer at the City of Brisbane and Arthur Nastos, CIO, Department of Culture and the Arts, Western Australia.
According to O’hea, Brisbane has just launched the first digital strategy in the world with an economic focus, targeting to doubling the number of small medium enterprises. He added that in the Waseda University e-government survey, Australia was in 14th place out of 55 in 2011, and moved up to 7th place in 2012. Australia scored 82 points, while the average score of European countries was 66 points.
The final debater Nastos argued that Australia has a world class science and innovation sector. “We are building the world’s largest telescope in Western Australia that will generate more data than the internet. The telescope will create 1 zettabyte of data per day, compared to the internet that generates 500 to 600 petabyte. Think about the data and digital infrastructure required to handle that,” he said.
Nastos also reminded the audience that the Commonwealth Bank of Australia was the first bank that allowed financial transaction through email and social media.
Both teams, with their well-prepared arguments peppered by humourous anecdotes, kept the audience engaged in the 30-minute long debate. At the end of the session, Team Europe won the hearts of the audience by swaying the votes from the initial 32 per cent to 58 per cent, and emerged winners.