A year on since Australia’s federal government announced the country’s first Digital Transformation Strategy, Minister for Government Services Stuart Robert has revealed that he has ordered for departments to consider what a ‘whole of government technology’ architecture may look like.
Speaking at the AIIA ACT Ministerial Forum in Canberra, Robert also said that the government would be exploring new funding models to better exploit digital development.
The Minister was delivering an update on the government’s Digital Transformation Strategy and laid out a roadmap of more than 100 key projects and milestones. The government has committed to making all services digitally available by 2025.
Australia already has a Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) and Prime Minister Scott Morrison also recently set up a new Services Australia organisation, which Robert heads up.
During his speech, Robert said:
This is not simply tweaking the way we deliver our services: it is a fundamental reorientation of government from processing forms, payments and entitlements to delivering world-class connected services, tailored to individual circumstances, needs and life events and delivering a delightful customer experience.
Why? Because Australians expect – and indeed deserve – nothing less than that.
We must also address some of the bigger issues that have been lurking around, sometimes creating significant barriers and constraints for the public sector and our partners in delivering better, simpler and more tailored services to people and businesses.
We at diginomica/government have previously noted how Australia learnt lessons from the UK’s Government Digital Services in its early days, when it established the DTA. However, whilst the UK is lacking in gusto in recent years, Australia seems to be pulling ahead with some interesting ideas and approaches.
For example, Australia’s digital efforts clearly have political backing given Services Australia was announced by the Prime Minister and given a dedicated Minister, and it is also taking a holistic view of what is possible when thinking about digital government.
Robert said that it is clear that the government needs to tackle “bigger and more complex structural, whole of government issues in the period ahead”. He added that this is a critical new layer in prosecuting the vision of the Digital Transformation Strategy.
The current siloed approach to technology architecture, investment and delivery across government departments makes it difficult to deliver interconnected services that span agency boundaries, address people’s complex circumstances and life events.
The current funding models for technology projects have failed to keep up with the growth of cloud and other service and subscription-based models of sourcing technology.
The current funding processes are also inhibiting the take up of more agile ways of delivery at a time when the era of billion-dollar monolithic technology projects that take a decade or more to deliver is clearly past us.
The lack of a sophisticated whole of government portfolio view of ICT projects, capabilities, needs and, dare I say, liabilities makes it difficult to develop scalable platforms and capabilities.
This is not the way to get the best value of your, mine and every taxpayer’s money. This is not the way technology and business teams should be constrained when trying to deliver services.
Robert laid out his plans to address these challenges. Firstly, the Minister has asked DTA to engage with Australia’s largest government technology shops - Defence, Home Affairs, ATO and Services Australia - to create a task force that will explore what a single whole of government technology architecture may look like.
He said that this will help identify critical technology capabilities that support broad business outcomes and “progressively develop a more nuanced view of strategic capabilities across government”.
On funding, Robert said that the current processes have more in common with funding long-term infrastructure projects rather than innovative digital ones: CAPEX vs OPEX, on-prem vs cloud, waterfall vs agile, products vs services, whole of government outcomes vs individual agency offsets.
He added that the government needs to have a “much simpler, faster and agile way of releasing funding for digital projects”.
Robert has asked DTA to work with the Departments of Finance, Defence and other agencies to explore different funding models that could be considered in the future to address the current issues. He added:
We must enable agencies to try things, learn and scale up or share their learnings before significant amounts of money and reputation capital are sunk into projects that may not deliver what they set out to do.
The result will enable us to get a true whole of government view of the technology portfolio and make the right decisions around the Cabinet table to achieve our goal of delivering world-leading digital services for the benefit of all Australians.
It will also enable better cross-agency and cross-government collaboration and integration of services that will allow us to be customer centric.