EXCLUSIVE – Keynote address at the WA OpenGov Leadership Forum 2017 - The future of digital government services in Western Australia
At the Western Australia OpenGov Leadership Forum held in Perth on December 7, Mr. Giles Nunis, Chief Executive and Government Chief Information Officer, Office of the WA Government Chief Information Officer, delivered the keynote address on ‘Leading and Transforming the Way Public Services are Designed, Supported and Delivered through the WA ICT Strategy 2016 – 2020’.
The Office of Office of the Government Chief Information Officer (OGCIO) was established in July 2015, with the mandate of 1) developing a whole-of-government ICT strategy; 2) collaborating with government agencies and industry; 3) stabilising costs and increasing value for money; and 4) minimising risk in the delivery of ICT across government. A whole-of-government ICT strategy, Digital WA, was published by the OGCIO in May 2016, seeking to position “the public sector as a whole to use the opportunities provided by current and emerging technologies to deliver efficient, reliable ICT services that support exceptional public services”.
Progress has been made since the launch of the strategy. The myWA Alpha site went live on 17 December 2016. The site makes it easier for the community and businesses to find and access over 80 existing WA government services online and search across all WA government websites. It is the first step towards the longer term aim of a one stop shop of government digital services. GovNext-ICT is transitioning WA Government from being an owner and operator of ICT infrastructure towards being a consumer of commercial compute, storage and network services. In January vendors were appointed to ensure that Agencies will be able to purchase ICT infrastructure services on demand, reducing procurement costs and delays. The suppliers will each lead a consortia of local and, in some cases, national providers to provide the services to the public sector.
Drivers for change
Governments around the world today are under immense pressure to improve the way they deliver services to citizens. There has been plenty of evidence published over the past few years that clearly identifies a need to improve digital service delivery.
Mr. Nunis referred to a Deloitte Access Economics report on Digital Government Transformation from 2015 which identified significant potential for savings in government through digitalisation, with the average cost of a face-to-face transaction being $16.90, compared to a cost of $0.40 per online transaction.
The State finances are in difficulty, and the problem cannot be solved by using the same methods that led there. “In the difficult economic times, we need to change, and digital services are a proven way of reducing transactional and administrative costs in Government,” said Mr. Nunis.
But it is not just about cost reduction. This change is about providing on-demand, contextual services, which are meaningful to those who are using them.
A 2016 report from the WA Public Accounts Committee on ‘Doing ICT better’ talked about mandatory compliance requirements via policies, standards, or frameworks for government agencies. Surveys by Australia Post, the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA), the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA), the Australian Computer Society (ACS)– all show that 98 or 99% of people want all government services available online.
A report on ‘Delivering Services Online’ from the Western Australia Auditor General last year noted that WA is not as advanced as some other Australian jurisdictions in delivering common services online. It took a snapshot of how 5 agencies were dealing with the growing demand for services to be available online and found that while some agencies had created an effective online presence, others were working to catch up.
Mr. Nunis acknowledged that some other state jurisdictions in Australia, and the Commonwealth Government are significantly in front of where WA is right now, in terms of digital transformation. (Service NSW was already delivering over 900 services from more than 40 New South Wales Government agencies in 2016. Victoria is proceeding towards the launch of Service Victoria. Access Canberra brings together ACT Government shopfronts, call handling, online services and regulatory functions in a single unified service. South Australia’s Service SA provides access to a range of government services, including a variety of registration and licensing, either online, over the phone and in person. Smart Service Queensland and Service Tasmania provide a primary point of contact for citizens to access State Government services.At the national level, the Digital Transformation Agency is publishing standards and promoting the way forward.)
There are differences in the models, and each state is developing and applying what is relevant to their particular situtation. WA has the opportunity to learn from their journeys.
The final report of the Service Priority Review was released last week, setting out a blueprint for reform and cultural change in Western Australia's public sector. It clearly indicates that digital transformation continues to be at the top of the agenda. And there will be stronger focus on the area now from the Department of Premier and Cabinet.
Mr. Nunis moved on from the drivers of change to the paradigm shift. He said that as long as people continue to do the same things in the same way, and making the same decisions, the shift is not going to occur. And this is a problem across the public sector, not just in ICT. Government processes have long been designed for compliance and risk avoidance and government technology has been selected to match current processes and avoid risk. Government agencies tend to work independently in silos.
Strong innovative leadership is required to push the boundaries and drive the required shift.
A shift has to be achieved to new behaviours:
- Focus on the SERVICE, not the process (be customer centric)
- Focus on the INFORMATION, not the technology (be data centric)
- Focus on the COMMUNITY, not the agency (be client centric)
In line with this shift in focus, the business and ICT teams must be more integrated, more than ever before. They must work together on Service Design, avoiding a master/slave or “throw it over the fence” relationship.
Today, information is more important than technology. Data or information should be treated as a precious resource. And finally, whole-of-government should be the first approach.
This would be the beginning of a new way to find information and access digital services that are delivered across the 450 government websites supported and maintained by the WA Government today. To be able to search and find information across all government agencies and also to potentially transact is going to be the beginning of that particular journey.
The vision - Future of Digital Services in WA
Mr. Nunis laid out a three-stage vision for the future of digital services in WA.
In the short Term (2017-18), agencies should start to identify and document their current services – digital or manual (KPI process showed many don’t know all their current services).
The new wa.gov.au can act as a central find-and-refer site, making easier for the public to find and use online services already being provided by the Government. Information has to be treated as a service (rather than static web pages) and it must be made more accessible to search engines and digital assistants like Siri.
In the mid Term (2018 – 2020), agencies should connect their existing digital services to common platforms. Things like digital identity, payment gateways, online forms, etc. should be developed and optimised for use across the public sector, to reduce duplication of processes.
For instance, common identity can be used to login to multiple services from wa.gov.au. Each agency will still be in control of their own data and security, but they will allow accounts to connect in.
The common platforms will enable a consistent user interface. In the medium term, multi-agency services could be trialled as single “user journeys” – eg. “Starting a business”. It should be about meeting the needs of the user, and not about the roles played by the different agencies in fulfilling those needs.
Agencies can also plan for digitisation of manual services and figure out what will require service redesign or process redesign, by questioning ‘why we do what we do’, and how.
For the long term, Mr. Nunis said, “Beyond 2020, I expect digital services to be accessible through one user account with one interface and majority of government services streaming through this channel.”
There will be a seamless user experience regardless of the department that’s delivering the services. Multi-agency services will be experienced by users as a single service.
Multi-channel options will be available supported by common digital platforms – everything should be available digitally, but not everything must be done digitally.
It might seem ambitious to try to achieve that in the next 2 or 3 years, but sometimes the boundaries have to be pushed as much as possible.
How to achieve the vision - Culture and capability
To successfully achieve the vision, it is necessary to undertake cultural transformation. The Service Priority Review has a strong focus on cultural change. Government ICT needs to be less resistant to change and willing to take more risks.
The machinery of WA Government is undergoing changes. In response, government ICT needs to be more agile.
There is far more in common between agencies in terms of ICT and service needs than differences. And these changes can be used an opportunity to look at the technology and business practices and consolidate the environment.
Mr. Nunis said that ICT must be an enabler, and not a barrier. ICT has to be seen as the “Let’s make it happen” people, not the “That can’t happen” people.
The focus for ICT should be on services, and not on systems. Every system should be there to support one or more services. Furthermore, ICT teams should consider themselves providers and not suppliers. They must support the users in getting what they need, even if they get it from somewhere else.
ICT has to be seen as adding value to business decisions. For doing so, ICT people must understand user journeys and expectations, understand what value means to the customer. They have to provide options, understand cost and political drivers.
ICT people need to be able to tell a story, avoiding jargon and acronyms, to communicate the benefits to non-tech business people. It is not something which can be left up to an engagement team. ICT people need to work out how they can become a trusted partner for business.
Mr. Nunis said that it is a difficult road ahead and it is a journey which is more about people than the technology. He concluded his speech saying, “This is what I think the challenge for government is. While we maintain uninterrupted operations, and ensure that we continue to deliver our current services to the community, we need to make a radical shift and that shift should happen now, towards a data-driven customer centric service model, which uses interoperable common platforms across multiple government departments and that is predictive and of value of the taxpayer.”