Highlighting the potential of digital government to transform the public sector, Australian Minister of Communications, Malcolm Turnbull, says digitisation makes it easier for citizens and businesses to interact with government. In order to derive the full benefits, there needs to be a change in attitude towards digital engagement.
Addressing more than 300 government leaders and technology experts, the Minister opened the fourth annual FutureGov Summit Australia 2013 in Canberra on 2 December. Emphasising the key challenges and policy directions for digital engagement in the Australian Government, the Minister set the stage for two days of intensive discussions around the latest ICT developments impacting government service delivery in Australia.
The critical objective of digital government is not simply to save costs, the Minister noted. “Historically, the function of bodies such as the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) and its counterparts in other jurisdictions has been to try to achieve greater efficiencies in procurement and cost savings.”
“The critical missing element here in driving a more engaged and responsive digital platform is a lack of coordination. Responsibility for e-government in the past has been spread over several portfolios.”
Looking to provide better direction and coordination in e-government, the Coalition released a comprehensive digital economy and e-government policy in September this year. “It set the goal that all services with more than 50,000 interactions per year should be made available online by 2017 with internet as the default option for most services,” the Minister shared.
“The biggest barriers to innovation in digital engagement is not technology, but culture and lack of imagination,” he highlighted. While in the private sector the element of competition drives innovation, strong leadership plays a key role in driving innovation in government.
A policy of the government is to provide all citizens with a free unique digital address as the destination for all government correspondence. The Department of Human Services and Australia Post have already taken significant steps in this direction with their initiatives in myGov and digital mailbox, respectively.
Another area of policy commitment of the Minister is in open data. Recognising the potential of open data in providing “enormous productivity benefits right across the economy”, the Minister said there is room for improvement here in Australia.
“The scarcest resource here is not technology, but technological imagination,” he said, urging public sector leaders to embrace change as digital engagement transforms the public sector.