CeBIT speech eGovernment Conference 2014 – Opening Speech

Allan Barger

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The speech below was delivered to the CeBIT eGovernment conference by Chris Dale; Assistant Secretary of the Government Network Services Branch from the Department of Finance.

Good morning, it is a very exciting time for technologists in the public service. We have seen new technologies emerge and mature at an extraordinary rate in recent times, with new opportunities to innovate, transform and generally improve how we support the business of government.

At all levels of government, we are aware of the valuable leadership role the public sector plays in supporting Australia’s transition to a digital economy. As our governments invest and innovate in our own ICT environments, we can demonstrate economic and productivity benefits both for the public and within government.

As the largest procurer of ICT in the country, the public service plays a significant role in shaping the Australian ICT sector. A responsibility we take very seriously through transparent procurement processes, proactive engagement with ICT SMEs and by continually trying to improve how we innovate and achieve value for taxpayers.

Today I’m going to talk to you about a new policy that outlines an ambitious ICT agenda for the Australian public service.

The Coalition’s eGovernment and Digital Economy Policy was released as a pre-election commitment just before the September election and I would like to take the time this morning to run through some of the key points outlined within it, give an overview of how we are planning to put some of these key points into practice and reflect upon what we have already done in support of its stated intentions.  

This pre-election commitment has in it the blueprint for a digital by default public service and the plan has a number of objectives including;

The development of efficient, cost effective, user friendly and personalised online services for all citizen interactions that happen more than 50,000 times a year with a concerted shift to being more responsive to the way users want to interact with us. 

The development of a ‘digital service standard’ and a digital service design guide detailing how our services will be developed, operated and maintained. 

Smarter ICT investment strategies and better reporting and accountability of ICT expenditure across government. 

The availability of a digital mailbox for all government communications. 

Greater adoption of shared and cloud services, as well as improved online identity. 

A strong commitment to open data with agencies expediting access to high value datasets to achieve greater economic benefits, public sector efficiencies, improved policy and decision making, and better online services. 

Improved ICT skills and support for the digital economy.  Greater engagement with industry,

and finally, more transparency and accountability of ICT projects in the public service through a public dashboard for Government ICT performance and a league table of agency performance on online engagement, open data, platform-agnostic service delivery and user satisfaction.

You can read more specific details in the pre-election commitment itself sourced through your search engine of choice, but already I’m sure many of you can appreciate the scope of this vision and the way it will transform how the public service uses technology. It establishes a standard approach to service delivery - particularly high frequency and high volume services that are user focused, enabling a more personalised, streamlined and highly efficient way to help citizens help themselves.

Of course, digital by default, or digital by design as we prefer to call it, immediately begs the question of services for those who are not online, digitally literate or who may not have convenient access to digital services. The immediate answer is that by delivering fast and simple services to the large majority of citizens who can use them, more resources will be freed up to assist those who cannot help themselves. Digital by design thus creates the capacity to provide better services to all Australians.

Turning to our implementation plan for The Coalition’s eGovernment and Digital Economy Policy pre-election commitment, the responsibility belongs to two Ministers, the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Communications. As such, the planning, implementation and authorisation is being handled by the Department of Finance and the Department of Communications, with each Department taking a lead coordination role for the different initiatives.

The pre-election commitment has five key initiatives:

1) Convenient Services Anywhere Anytime – led by Finance
2) Infrastructure for a Digital, Networked Economy – led by Communications
3) Government 2.0 and Big Data – led by Finance
4) Smarter ICT Investment – led by Finance
5) A Reboot of Whole of Government ICT Leadership – led by Finance

It is probably worth briefly outlining who’s who in Finance today, given the restructure of AGIMO some fifteen months ago and the retirement of Glenn Archer from the public service earlier this year.

The role of John Sheridan as Australian Government Chief Technology Officer in charge of the Technology and Procurement Division continues to provide whole of government ICT services and infrastructure, and he retains the role of Australian Government Procurement Coordinator responsible for all whole of government procurement advice, services and the Commonwealth Procurement Rules.

The role of the Australian Government Chief Information Officer will not be replaced. Rosemary Deininger has undertaken Glenn’s responsibilities as the First Assistant Secretary of the newly created Efficiency, Assurance and Digital Government Cluster. Rosemary will oversee whole of government ICT policy and investment, and will chair ICT governance bodies such as the Australian Government’s Chief Information Officer Committee.

Regarding the new Pre-election commitment, Finance are planning a series of information sessions and both Finance and Communications have already been reaching out to various government agencies and departments to gather new data, to collaborate on implementation and to ensure the best possible outcomes.

It is also worth addressing at this point that the pre-election commitment is budget neutral, so there will be no additional money for agencies to implement the vision. This is not a bad thing, as digital improvements should be integrated into business as usual planning rather than seen as something separate. Agencies will be provided with documentation, advice, code and other budget neutral support mechanisms from the Departments of Finance and Communications, and should start to consider drawing a line in the sand in how they think about ICT such that all future developments are digital by design.

All new systems and procurements should be undertaken with a view to alignment with the new pre-election commitment. Agencies should be adopting AGILE rather than waterfall approaches. Agencies should leverage shared infrastructure such as MyGov for citizen authentication or the whole of government Content Management System currently being implemented. Agencies should look at how they can collaborate across government to achieve better outcomes and should consider collaboration itself a necessary and useful strategy more so than current practise.

On that note, the public service needs to embrance new ways of thinking and the eGov Pre-election commitment provides a great opportunity for technologists to establish modern strategies and technologies for business as usual systems and ICT planning. When you run an ICT project in government you aren’t just setting up a new system, you are serving the needs of your family, your neighbours, your friends, and indeed the whole of society.

There are many ICT practitioners throughout government who, every day, perform their duties with exceptional skill, professionalism and innovation and I would like to take a moment to congratulate and reflect on the achievements of the winners of the annual Australian Government ICT Awards that took place at this conference last night:

As winner for Overall Excellence in e-Government and in the Application Development category, The Queensland Police Service has put innovation in mobile technology in the spotlight for the second year in a row with their QLiTe pilot. This project is driving a radical transformation of frontline policing operations by providing Queensland’s police officers with the ability to perform on demand intelligence searches and capture in-field information using mobile devices.

The City of Geelong, as winner of the Geospatial Category, has demonstrated a level of sophistication beyond most three dimensional model environments, with their photorealistic model of Geelong. The model is providing real business benefit for urban designers and city planners, by supporting improved quality and access to information, such as a better understanding of how proposed developments will cast shadows and impact vistas. By providing open access to the model, the city is also providing benefit to external stakeholders such as architects, developers and the general public.  The City of Geelong has also shared its geodata publicly through

In the Government 2.0 Category the Australian Bureau of Statistics has added gamification to its repertoire bringing the educational experience of Run That Town to a huge new audience who now have the chance to interact with Census data and make decisions on their virtual postcode of choice.  The Australian Bureau of Statistics wanted to raise awareness of the release of the latest Census of Population and Housing data. Run That Town personalises the player’s experience with customised content and data from the 2011 Census, using it to make informed and popular decisions.

Project and Program Management was taken out by Service NSW for ushering in a new era in government service delivery.  Service NSW was created in 2013 and has launched the foundations for a one-stop service – 15 service centres, a 24/7 phone service and a new digital service with an emphasis on building new smart forms. Service NSW has now delivered services to more than 1.7 million customers with satisfaction scores tracking at 98%.

In the Service Delivery category the Department of Immigration and Border Protection has implemented a new online self-service facility. This new facility, ImmiAccount, has positioned the department to better service its clients using e-channels, while also supporting the government’s new visa pricing arrangements. Using a secure online account, clients are now able to manage visa applications in one place. The successful delivery of ImmiAccount has provided the department with a strategic digital footprint to deliver more online services across its business lines.

Individuals were also recognised for their strong contributions last night, the young ICT Professional of the Year was awarded to Keith Moss from the Western Australia Land Information Authority.  Keith, a Geospatial Specialist at Landgate is responsible for the development and delivery of a number of core applications both for Landgate and for the State of Western Australia. He is currently ensuring that the Location Applications branch delivers consumer applications that make the best use of Landgate systems and its associated information.

The ICT Professional of the Year Award went to Jodie Rugless from the City of Charles Sturt in South Australia.  Jodie is the Information Services Manager at the City of Charles Sturt.

To the entrants, finalists and winners from this years awards, I would thank you again for all your great work and enthusiasm, the public sector is all the better off for it.

Returning to the progress being made, I am glad to report that in just over seven months there has been some significant progress against the eGov Pre-election commitment already.

The Web Policy team have been busy consulting with ICT professionals across government on the development of a digital service standard and digital design guide, using the excellent work of the United Kingdom Government as a template. Our many thanks to Mike Bracken, Liam Maxwell and the GDS team for their ongoing support and willingness to share.

The team have gone from 500 to almost 3600 datasets with thousands more in the planning. For instance, the Federal Budget is to be released in data form this year for the first time and I direct you to our blog at which highlights the fact that “The collection of Portfolio Budget Statements financial tables will be published as a single dataset for ease of discoverability and access, by the media and the public and managed by the team in Finance. This new requirement is designed to satisfy the Government’s direction regarding the proactive publishing of government data in a format that facilitates public access and promotes more efficient data sharing and analysis”

Agencies are now starting to see significant benefits of publishing data to and many agencies are now starting to build services and solutions on top of the platform as part of their online services delivery stack.

The ICT Investment team have been looking into new ways to more effectively measure ICT performance, spending and outcomes across government, and are about to launch an ICT audit that leverages existing rich datasets, such as contract information from AusTender, whilst asking agencies for some new information to help establish a useful baseline resulting in improved ongoing monitoring of ICT performance in government.

A number of excellent end-to-end digital services are already in place from agencies who have been moving towards digital by design for some time. The online services delivery work by Department for Human Services is a good exemplar. In 2012-13 more than 930 million transactions were completed across the department with 74% of those conducted via a self-managed service or electronically. Such transactions include the DHS Express Mobile App, online reporting of employment income, and of course, the MyGov consolidated online services delivery project, where citizens can access and self-manage services from Centrelink, Medicare, Child Support, eHealth and Veteran’s Affairs with a single username and password.

The Standard Business Reporting work being undertaken in the Australian Taxation Office is also exemplar as they have made the service API publicly available. Upon release, it was quickly integrated into a number of accounting applications developed by the private sector, providing the ability for businesses to securely and seamlessly report taxation information directly to the ATO through their existing accounting tools. The ATO have also committed to delivering the 2014 eTAX through MyGov which will be highly convenient for the 2.5 million Australians who have already signed up.

In the area of big data analytics, Finance recently released a better practice guide, developed by the Data Analytics Centre of Excellence, that aims to assist agencies make better use of their big data assets while ensuring continued protection of privacy rights and security. Last week we concluded a seven-week public call for proposals for joint private-public big data projects for the purpose of improving service quality and efficiency. We are now reviewing submissions and considering options for progressing them further.

We are currently working on an update of the Australian Government Cloud Computing Policy and opportunities for improved shared services to reflect the Government’s intent to better leverage Cloud and shared services across the public service. The Pre-election commitment specifically states to:

“Simplify Government ICT and eliminate duplicated, fragmented and sub-scale activities across agencies by requiring use of shared or cloud services where minimum efficient scale hurdles are not met.”

The implementation of the Parliamentary Workflow Solution has been a good example of shared services. The joint initiative between the Department of Education and Finance, a finalist in the Service Delivery category of last night’s awards, is introducing a single IT solution across some 40 Australian Government agencies for the management of parliamentary workflow. Fifteen agencies are now fully transitioned to the solution and these agencies report that the new solution is a significant improvement over their legacy systems. The need for a common system was driven by the number of agencies simultaneously seeking a cheaper and easier to manage solution for their parliamentary workflow requirements. According to the project team, a key success factor has been the examination of common business processes before building the system.

We also run a number whole of government shared services and infrastructure already including collaboration tools, consultation platforms, secure telepresence services, secure fibre networks, which I mentioned earlier and, which provides a gateway to all government services, information and agencies.

We are also establishing a whole of government Content Management System. The Government Content Management System (or GovCMS) is envisaged as an important service offering for agencies  of the Australian Government. GovCMS is intended to support more effective web channel delivery functions within Government, and enable agencies to redirect effort from non-core transactional activities, towards higher-value activities that are more aligned with core agency missions The GovCMS feasibility study indicates that the Australian Government will be able to do this at a lower overall cost.


In conclusion, technology is fundamental infrastructure for a digital economy. It provides the means to provide services, to create evidence based and well analysed policies and programs, to measure and monitor performance, to stimulate innovation and economic development and to support the growth and competitiveness of our national digital economy.

Section 10 of the National Commission of Audit released last week explicitly recognised the importance of eGovernment, data and Cloud in improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the public service. I encourage you all to review the recommendations of this report to government, available in detail on the website, and how they might be applicable to your work and ICT planning.

The Coalition’s eGovernment and Digital Economy Policy pre-election commitment provides an ambitious blueprint for ICT in the public service and in the broader community.  I encourage you all to engage with the Departments of Finance and Communications so we can collaboratively forge a digital-by-design path for Australia, together.

Thank you


Last updated: 17 August 2016