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Above image: Screenshot from cover page of the final report of the Service Priority Review

Above image: Screenshot from cover page of the final report of the Service Priority Review

WA public sector review recommends transfer of digital transformation policy functions to Department of Premier and Cabinet

The final report of the Service Priority Review in Western Australia (WA) was released on December 6, setting out a blueprint for reform and cultural change in Western Australia's public sector. The report highlights 17 recommendations and 37 actions in which the public sector can operate more efficiently to deliver better services to the community, at a lower cost. (An interim report had been released in August.)

The independent review panel undertook extensive consultation over six months with government and non-government stakeholders across the State. The McGowan Government has endorsed the final report, broadly supporting the recommendations and will move to begin implementing them next year.

One of the focus areas for the review was digital transformation within the WA Government.

Driving the Government’s ICT strategy

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

It is placed within the Department of Finance and its head, the Government Chief Information Officer (GCIO), reports directly to the Minister for Innovation and ICT. The 2017-18 State Budget provides funding for the OGCIO until 30 June 2018 and indicates that a decision will be made on the future of the office as part of the 2018-19 budget process.

Submissions to the review pointed to a lack of cross-government ICT leadership that has consequences in a number of areas. The OGCIO’s role and mandate is widely regarded as limited and ICT priorities are accordingly subservient to competing expenditure decisions at agency level. The review also found that the administrative and reporting framework in which the OGCIO operates does not support effective administrative oversight and lacks strong accountability and governance.

The report recommends that the ICT procurement function should lie within the Department of Finance (DoF) in order to derive better value and leverage commercial and contracting expertise within that department. The Panel notes that ICT procurement and purchasing decisions will need to be soundly based on an understanding of the available and emerging technology, overall costs and the ICT needs of the public sector.

The review also found the arrangements for sharing cybersecurity information to be fragmented and underdeveloped. Currently, arrangements to manage future significant cyber security events are under consideration by the Office of State Security and Emergency Coordination within DPC. At agency level, the OGCIO’s Whole-of-Government Digital Security Policy provides direction for individual WA agencies to manage their digital security risks. The Panel suggests that DPC should, as a priority, coordinate the development of a proactive action and response plan to address the specific cyber security risks to the State.

The report goes on to recommend the transfer the policy functions associated with digital transformation, cyber security and data sharing of the OGCIO to the Department of the Premier and Cabinet (DPC). Broad-based policy functions associated with digital transformation, cyber security and data sharing could be located within the DPC with a clear mandate to drive ICT policy across the public sector. 

Multi-channel delivery of government services

The report recommends “Increase online service delivery to provide multiple channels for delivering transactional services”. The suggested lead for this is the DPC, who should Undertake a feasibility study for implementation of a whole-of-government multi-channel transactional service delivery model.

The report notes that many individual agencies in WA have begun a process of reshaping transactional services and delivering them online where possible. A triage-based approach to provide a common platform for locating and accessing online transactional services provided by individual agencies, known as ServiceWA, is being developed by the OGCIO. But at the moment, only about 2.5 per cent of government services in Western Australia are available online.

Moreover, Telecommunication services, including mobile and internet coverage, are non-existent or unreliable in many remote Aboriginal communities. Ensuring universal accessibility of services necessiates the retention of a mix of online, telephone and physical service centres.

The report says that while it is clear that WA is now behind other jurisdictions in terms of its take-up of integrated and digital service provision, this represents an opportunity to learn from experiences in other jurisdictions and reimagine service provision models in WA to make services conveniently accessible to the community.

A new approach could include both increased availability of services online and regional co-location of service delivery agencies. Regionally-located government offices could themselves provide community access to online transactional services.

Any move to implement service integration and digital transformation projects requires robust cost-benefit analysis, a deep understanding of customer demand and consideration of ongoing program evaluation and benefits realisation. Initial steps towards multi-channel service delivery for WA should include a comprehensive analysis of potential models and an assessment of each in terms of costs, benefits, resource demands and customer needs and expectations. The analysis should inform future decision making on governance, staging, time-frame and structure to optimise online and integrated services for WA citizens. 

(Editorial note: The WA GCIO, Mr. Giles Nunis delivered the opening keynote address at the Western Australia OpenGov Leadership Forum in Perth today, which we will writing about soon.)

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