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EXCLUSIVE – Driving the next phase of digital transformation in Australia: Report on Canberra OpenGov Leadership Forum 2018

On 5 June 2018, around 100 senior technology executives from various government agencies in Australia gathered at the Canberra OpenGov Leadership Forum 2018 to exchange ideas on technology trends and learn about latest tools and techniques in building an effective digital government strategy. The full-day Forum took place at Old Parliament House, Canberra.

Chairman’s Opening Remarks

‍Mr Mohit Sagar, Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief of OpenGov Asia

Mr Mohit Sagar, Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief of OpenGov Asia, kickstarted the Forum by highlighting the importance of digital transformation in the public sector.

In his Chairman’s Opening Remarks, Mr Sagar remarked that digital transformation is more than just the technology – it is about understanding citizens’ needs and driving desirable outcomes. According to him, government officials need to understand citizens’ needs, how they use technology and, more importantly, what their agencies are trying to achieve, in order to make the best use of technology to improve public services delivery

Australian Government’s Data Policy

‍Ms Naomi Perdomo, A/g Assistant Secretary, Data and Digital Branch, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

Ms Naomi Perdomo, A/g Assistant Secretary, Data and Digital Branch, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet then gave her opening keynote address by sharing current issues in the Australian Government’s data policy.

Her keynote address highlighted that the Australian Government has an increasing focus on data and that its approach to data policy is multi-faceted, covering a wide range of issues like data integration, data infrastructure, data sharing and release, to community acceptance on data use and security.

Ms Perdomo also shared that the Australian Government has agreed to the Productivity Commission’s recommendations and is working towards reforming data governance structures for better data sharing and release.

A key message in her address is that community acceptance on data use is critical to the success of data initiatives. To build trust among citizens, the Australian Government is proactively engaging the community to communicate about its data and digital initiatives to demonstrate their benefits and value while emphasising protections and controls.

The Forum then moved on to its first gamification session. Throughout the full-day event, the Forum hosted a total of four gamification sessions which engaged the senior technology executives in a series of open discussions and interactive gamification exercises through OpenGov’s signature Open Dialogue Table format.

In between the gamification sessions, OpenGov invited a few distinguished international speakers to present case studies on various governments’ experience in their digital transformation journeys.

New Zealand’s Integrated Data Infrastructure

‍Mr Chris Buxton, Chief Digital Officer of Stats NZ

Mr Chris Buxton, Chief Digital Officer of Stats NZ, spoke about New Zealand’s integrated data infrastructure. He shared about how his organisation uses microdata from two large integrated databases – Integrated Data Infrastructure (IDI) database and the Longitudinal Business Database (LBD) – for research about issues pertinent to New Zealand’s population.

In linking the datasets and ensuring that the IDI and LBD data is kept safe, Mr Buxton explained that Stats NZ adopts the “Five Safes Framework” under which only authorised researchers working on approved statistical projects of public interest can access de-identified data at the Data Lab through which Stats NZ staff will ensure that no person nor business are identifiable in the data.

Data Science as a Service

To give an industry perspective, Mr Mitch Robinson, Senior Data Scientist at Leidos Australia explored the topic of data science as a Service. According to him, we are on a journey to citizen data science in which the emergence of big data and analytics improve accuracy. Such technological advancement thus created a need for the modern enterprise to shift strategic direction from process based to data driven.

However, for most businesses, this transformation is still in its infancy. Typical analytical challenges that businesses face include capability establishment, data engineering, data discovery and insights productisation. In his sharing on how Leidos expedites customers’ digital transformation journeys, Mr Robinson highlighted the importance of using the right tools that allow rapid and secure data access for the organisation to develop trusted and actionable insights.

The Netherland’s experience in Digital Identity

‍Mr Frans Rijkers, Strategic Advisor Innovation & Identity, National Office for Identity Data, Ministry for the Interior and Kingdom Relations, the Netherlands

Mr Frans Rijkers, Strategic Advisor Innovation & Identity, National Office for Identity Data, Ministry for the Interior and Kingdom Relations of the Netherlands, led the audience on the Dutch journey in creating a self-sovereign digital identity.

To start, Mr Rijkers shared that the vision of the Dutch Government is to leverage technology to provide citizen-centric public services and create a network society. He then spoke about the Dutch Blockchain Coalition and how the blockchain platform allows the government to implement citizen identification whilst protecting and preserving the privacy. In his sharing, Mr Rijkers emphasised the role of international collaboration in creating self-sovereign digital identity and the importance of empowering citizens to control their digital identities to build trust with distributed ledgers.

Leveraging technology to unleash the power of human collaboration

‍Mr Roberto Cordova, Major Account Manager, Polycom Australia

Mr Roberto Cordova, Major Account Manager at Polycom Australia, then gave his insights on how organisations can leverage technology to unleash the power of human collaborations. Technology changes the way we live, work, and play. With technological advancements, business communication today is also vastly different from what it was in the past.

Mr Cordova shared that to unleash the power of teams, Polycom Australia helps organisations to adopt three key measures to:

(1)    Enable every workspace with voice, video, and content solutions for maximum productivity, engagement and versatility,

(2)    Provide an easy and intuitive experience where the technology is hidden and automated to create natural experiences that drive utilisation, productivity, and

(3)    Deliver a workflow that is accessible to everyone and integrated into your most critical business applications.

To empower seamless collaboration across different platforms and team, Mr Cordova emphasised the that organisation should focus on its people and ensure the technology solutions are interoperable and easy to use.

Portugal: The Future of Digital Economy

‍Mr Morten Meyerhoff, Academic Fellow, Operating Unit for Policy-Driven Electronic Governance, the United Nations University

Mr Morten Meyerhoff, Academic Fellow, Operating Unit for Policy-Driven Electronic Governance, at the United Nations University, explored the future of digital economy. In his sharing, Mr Meyerhoff zoomed into major emerging technology trends such as digital identities and signatures, data exchange and reuse, user-centric services, and relevant governance, cooperation and legislation.

With the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) and increasing speed of analytics, improvements in system efficiency and service quality present great opportunities for better platform personalisation to improve citizen engagement and provide value-add.

Malaysia's Approach to Cybersecurity

Dato’ Dr Haji Amirudin bin Abdul Wahab, Chief Executive Officer of CyberSecurity Malaysia

Dato’ Dr Haji Amirudin bin Abdul Wahab, Chief Executive Officer of CyberSecurity Malaysia, shared Malaysia’s holistic approach to cybersecurity. Such an approach contributed to Malaysia high global ranking on the Global Cybersecurity Index (GCI) by the International Telecommunication Union(ITU) which is a multi-stakeholder initiative to measure the commitment of countries to cybersecurity based on 5 pillars of governance, legal capacity, technical capacity, capacity building and international cooperation.

According to Dato’ Dr Abdul Wahab, having a holistic approach means capabilities in both identifying potential cybersecurity threats and its impact on national security and public well-being as well as developing cyber resilience to resist, respond, and recover from cybersecurity threats. In the case of Malaysia, the holistic approach has helped the country to see cybersecurity as more than just a technical issue. Instead, it addresses cybersecurity through implementing relevant policies, training a quality cybersecurity workforce, and developing cybersecurity processes and procedures to cope with cybersecurity challenges.

Besides international case studies, the Forum also featured panel discussions on various topics including cybersecurity in the digital age, the power of big data analytics and AI for Besides international case studies, the Forum also featured panel discussions on various topics including cybersecurity in the digital age, the power of big data analytics and AI for better governance, and how governments can embrace emerging technologies and respond to the fast-changing technology landscape.better governance, and how governments can embrace emerging technologies and respond to the fast-changing technology landscape.

Polling results

Other than serving as an interactive and engaging learning platform, the Canberra OpenGov Leadership Forum also aimed to better understand the needs of the public sector agencies in their digital transformation journey.  

According to the polling results, over half of the delegates came from agencies with total head count of over 1,000. A majority of these organisations also have an IT head count of over 50 people. Over 30% of the attendees said their organisation has an annual budget of over $501 million. Half of the attendees indicated that their organisation’s annual IT budget ranges from $1 to $15 million. In terms of the IT budget allocation, 22% said over 55% of the budget is allocated to outsourced services. The top  3 outsourced area of IT services are in IT infrastructure management (28%), enterprise IT system (28%) and data centre (26%).

In terms of their IT and Information Management Strategy, 34% said their organisations are in the process of updating their existing strategy while 30% are implementing the strategy as scheduled. However, a quarter of the delegates shared that the implementation of the strategy is behind schedule and that 8% of the delegates said their organisations do not have an IT and Information Management Strategy.

Regarding the organisation’s priorities, 39% named cloud adoption and data management their top priority, followed by citizen-centric services (24%), data sharing and privacy (17%), cybersecurity (10%) and predictive analytics and AI (10%)

At the same time, delegates also shared the top 5 major challenges their organisations face in implementing IT projects, which are: the lack of clearly defined goals and requirements (28%), the lack of funding (20%), lack of in-house skills (19%), lack of ownership by the business (14%), lack of foundational IT infrastructure (10%).

Results also showed that the online transaction portal (37%), mobile application (31%), and non-interactive websites (12%) are the major digital public services that these public sector agencies offer. On the use of emerging technologies such as AI and blockchain, 48% of the attendees said they are currently not using or evaluating any form of AI and 44% said they need more information on blockchain to determine if there is a relevant application of the technology for the organisation. 33% of them also shared that data accessibility and sharing is the biggest pain point in big data value chain while 27% named data quality as the major challenge.

In terms of their biggest challenge in 2018, 38% of them are struggling with legacy infrastructure, 28% are facing difficulties in creating the culture and openness to innovation, and another 17% found cross-agency collaboration a challenge. Outdated systems and software (32%), employee negligence or malfeasance (28%), and migration to cloud (13%) were also named the biggest cybersecurity risks.

40% of the organisations are using or planning to use hybrid clouds while 21% preferred private clouds. In adopting cloud solutions, security (37%) is the main concern, followed by the lack of skills to manage cloud (24%) and budget and procurement constraints (19%).

To their top strategy to achieve policy objectives, 36% of the attendees named a change in organisational culture to create a conducive environment to promote innovation, followed by upskilling internal resource (19%) and establishing effective partnerships (18%).

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