The Australian Government has weighed in with full support for key technology platforms driving the business of government. These include a broader adoption of cloud computing, big data, and digital platforms through to 2017.
The administration’s just-released Report of the National Commission of Audit May 2014 canvasses a digital cloud first approach to whole-of-government IT procurement. Among the recommendations, this report, delivered by an influential National Commission of Audit, requires agencies to be proactive about digital and cloud-first operations.
With a focus on cost-savings, and large-scale cut-backs in Canberra, the commission acknowledge the role of technology to deliver wide-spread savings, while reducing duplication, and streamlining services.
Despite the rhetoric of cloud adoption, the commission notes the Commonwealth remains slow to adopt cloud computing. “A reliance on bespoke, legacy systems, concerns about security and privacy of placing public data in the cloud, and general risk-aversion all impede progress.”
Drawing on the banking sector, the commission notes a “cloud-first” policy can initially target low-risk, generic ICT services. Over three to five years, this may progressively reduce ICT costs, as cloud computing becomes a “default option.”
The commission proposes the Department of Finance establish a whole-of-government cloud computing provider panel. This panel is designed to confirm the viability, capability, and costs of using large-scale cloud computing providers.
The focus is ensuring that access to cloud service providers remains competitive, viable, and offers appropriate levels of security.
The Commonwealth holds large amounts of data. But this information is not being used to its best effect. “Some agencies collect data in the natural course of their operations and tend to focus more on collection, rather than analysis and wider use.”
The government’s massive data repository is often rarely connected, has duplicates, varies in quality, and is not supported by consistent standards. “The value of data holding to the whole-of-government is rarely articulated.”
Moreover, there is little, or no effort to fully examine data holdings, or assess the value of existing data. Agencies can prepare plans that make better use of data, and source innovation from outside government.
The government’s Data.Gov portal holds just 3,164 datasets. This compares with 10,000 datasets in the UK, and around 200,000 datasets in the US. Despite this showpiece, there is insufficient access to public data, including disability, aged care, job seekers, and the socially-disadvantaged.
The Australian Public Service needs to improve its capacity for data analytics. This involves analysing large datasets, in real-time, and being able to share insights, identify anomalies, and allocate resources, as and where needed.
With a renewed focus on big data, planners need to identify and prioritise projects, spanning key service delivery bodies. These include the Department of Human Services, Australian Taxation Office, and the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.
Like the UK, the Australian government may support a “digital strategy by default.” This strategy can be supported, more aggressively, under the auspices of the Department of Human Services’ MyGov on-line offering.
This portal offers access to information from Medicare, Centrelink, child support, health, veterans’ allowances, and disability insurance. But boosting access to digital services involves a more “ambitious strategy.”
The administration plans to ensure that every interaction, occurring more than 50,000 times a year, will be done on-line by 2017. Government correspondence is also expected to be available digitally, over the next four years.
Australia’s slow uptake of “digital government” is attributed to fragmented arrangements involving multiple agencies, and a policy disconnect. The commission proposes that core expertise be consolidated, under a single team.
This can be led by a chief digital officer, a role more likely filled by a private sector leader, with the nous to deliver digital transformation programmes.