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‘Connecting Government’ in Australia: towards digital-era governance?

Authors:
‘CONNECTED GOVERNMENT’
TOWARDS DIGITAL-ERA GOVERNANCE?
Patrick Dunleavy, Mark Evans and Carmel McGregor
Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis
‘Connected Government’ 2
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Table of contents ............................................................................................................................................................ 2
List of figures and tables ............................................................................................................................................... 3
Acknowledgements ........................................................................................................................................................ 4
About the Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis ........................................................................................... 5
About the authors ........................................................................................................................................................... 6
1. Executive summary ................................................................................................................................................ 7
1.1 What are the drivers of digital change? ....................................................................................................... 8
1.2 How is government responding? .................................................................................................................. 8
1.3 From where does Australia learn its digital lessons? ................................................................................ 9
1.4 Where is government acting as a digital exemplar? .................................................................................. 9
1.5 What are the main barriers being confronted? ........................................................................................10
1.6 How can strong, mutually productive digital partnerships be built and nurtured? ...........................10
2. Seeing digital .........................................................................................................................................................11
2.1 Sighting shots ...............................................................................................................................................12
2.2 Purpose ..........................................................................................................................................................13
2.3 What is driving digital change across the public services? ....................................................................14
2.4 What are the barriers to change? ...............................................................................................................19
2.5 From where does Australia draw its digital lessons? ..............................................................................22
2.6 Where can we find government acting as an exemplar within Australia? ............................................23
2.7 What technology partnerships are working and why? ............................................................................25
2.8 Digital dilemmas ...........................................................................................................................................25
2.9 Parting shots – seeing digital .....................................................................................................................27
References ....................................................................................................................................................................28
Appendix 1: A list of the organisations interviewed for this project ...................................................................29
‘Connected Government’ 3
LIST OF FIGURES AND TABLES
Figures
Figure 1: The main types of pressure for ‘digital era’ changes in contemporary public services .....................16
Figure 2: Device ownership and mobile usage .........................................................................................................18
Tables
Table 1: Four Models of bureaucracy and the IT/digital role ..................................................................................12
Table 2: The role of our interviewees .........................................................................................................................13
Table 3: Most frequently mentioned drivers of change ..........................................................................................16
Table 4: Most frequently mentioned barriers to change ........................................................................................19
Table 5: Most frequently mentioned sources of learning .......................................................................................23
Table 6: Most frequently mentioned government exemplars ................................................................................24
Table 7: Most frequently mentioned technology partnerships ..............................................................................25
‘Connected Government’ 4
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
We are extremely fortunate to have had the ability to complete this report at
this particular moment in the history of digital transformation in Australia.
There is a distinct sense of concerted action occurring in the Australian Public
Service as demonstrated by significant examples of innovation tempered by a
recognition that there is still much to do to exploit the potential of advances in
technology for better public policy. We would therefore like to express our
gratitude to those collaborators who have helped us to define the challenge
for digital change governance and map some potential pathways to its
achievement. Firstly, to the Telstra Advisory Group and Jack Dan, thank you
for your support and feedback. Secondly, many thanks to Nicole Lampe for
her sound project management. And thirdly, most of our gratitude should go
to members of the Australian Public Service who gave up so much of their time
to help us with this project.
Special thanks must also be conveyed to our research team – Patrick
Dunleavy and Carmel McGregor for their tenacity in helping me to gather data
in such a short period of time. As always, however, the interpretation of data in
the analysis which follows remains the sole responsibility of the lead
investigator.
‘Connected Government’ 5
ABOUT THE INSTITUTE FOR
GOVERNANCE AND POLICY ANALYSIS
The Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis at the University of Canberra
was established in January 2014 to harness the research strengths of the
ANZSOG Institute for Governance (ANZSIG), the Centre for Deliberative
Democracy and Global Governance (CDG) led by the Australian Laureate
Professor John Dryzek and the National Centre for Social and Economic
Modelling (NATSEM). The aim of the Institute is to create and sustain an
international class research institution for the study and practice of
governance and public policy. The Institute has a strong social mission
committed to the production of leading edge research and research driven
education programmes with genuine public value and, by implication, policy
impact.
The integration of ANZSIG, CDG and NATSEM has created exciting
opportunities for the development of cutting edge, mixed methods research in
governance and public policy analysis through combining knowledge in
institutional design with expertise in qualitative and quantitative methods,
evaluation, micro-simulation and policy modelling. It has also allowed us to
assemble probably the largest critical mass of governance and public policy
scholars in Australia and an eminent adjunct faculty which includes 14 award
winning members of the Commonwealth Senior Executive Service and the
world of political communication.
Policy changes often have to be made without sufficient information about
either the current environment or the consequences of change. IGPA aims to
be a key contributor to social and economic policy debate and analysis by
undertaking independent and impartial research of the highest quality,
including supplying valued consultancy services. In keeping with IGPA’s core
mission, many of our research projects have had significant policy impact and
led to changes in policy.
‘Connected Government’ 6
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Professor Patrick Dunleavy is Centenary Professor of Governance at the Institute for Governance
and Policy Analysis (IGPA), University of Canberra and Chair of Public Policy, London School of
Economics. Patrick reinforces IGPA’s research strengths in two main areas. Firstly, the
development of public sector IT systems and other large-scale modern public policy systems and
future trends in public management. His book Digital Era Governance claims that a new paradigm
of management focusing on three themes of recentralization, holism and digitalization has
replaced the previously dominant 'new public management'. Patrick’s latest publications in this
area also include Digital Era Governance: IT Corporations, the State and E-government (Oxford
University Press, 2009), Making and Breaking Whitehall Departments (Institute for Government,
2010), and The Future of Joined up Services (ESRC, 2011). His work with LSE Public Policy Group
includes detailed analyses of public sector productivity, citizen redress, policy evaluation, e-
government and other related topics, mainly in UK central government but with some local and
international experience.
Professor Mark Evans is currently the Director of the Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis
and Professor of Governance at the University of Canberra. His research focuses on governance
and policy analysis. He is the author or co-author of 25 books including the best-selling politics
book in Australia in 2011; The Rudd Government. His most recent book is Methods that Matter
(The Policy Press, 2016) with Gerry Stoker. Mark was previously, Professor of Government, and
Head of the Department of Politics at the University of York, UK and the inaugural coordinator of
the World-wide Universities Public Policy Network. He has edited the international journal Policy
Studies since 2005. Mark has acted as a senior policy advisor, delivered leadership training and
managed evaluation projects in 26 countries including Australia, Brazil, China and the United
Kingdom and for international organisations including the European Union, the UN and the World
Bank. Mark has worked with several Commonwealth departments over the past five years on
change governance issues. He has been awarded honorary research positions at the Universities
of Bath, Hull, and York in the UK and Renmin in China and is a Council member of IPAA in the ACT.
Carmel McGregor PSM is an adjunct Professor at IGPA University of Canberra. Carmel is the
former Deputy Secretary People in the Department of Defence. Carmel’s previous position was that
of Deputy Australian Public Service Commissioner (APSC). During this period, she was a member of
the Prime Minister’s Advisory Group on the Reform of Australian Government Administration. In
2011 she led a review entitled ‘Pathways for APS Women’ in Defence. From 2008 to 2012 Carmel
was Australia’s representative and Vice Chair of the OECD’s Public Governance Committee. She is
a Fellow of the Australian Human Resources Institute (AHRI) and non-executive director of the
AHRI Board, a Fellow and Vice President of the Institute of Public Administration Australia in the
ACT, and a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Management. She was the inaugural Public Policy
winner in the AFR/Westpac 100 Women of Influence awards in 2013.
‘Connected Government’ 7
1. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
‘Things take longer to happen than you think they will, and then happen
faster than you thought they could’.
Larry Summers
The Australian Public Service (APS) is currently undergoing a historic shift towards the establishment of
Digital Era Governance (DEG). The process of change challenges the established ways in which policy is
made and public services are delivered, monitored and evaluated. Most significantly, it questions dominant
public sector cultures and (sometimes), values and provides evidence of the capacity of many departments
and agencies in the APS to adapt to new realities. We now live in a digital era, where rapid and disruptive
change in societal behaviour and industrial and economic patterns have become the norm. As the Prime
Minister Malcolm Turnbull stated in his April 20 address to the Australian Public Service in the Great Hall at
Parliament House:
“Digital disruption, greater transparency in data and information,
contestability of advice, rising community expectations for fast and
personalised government services are just a few of the challenges you
face…In this new economy we need Australians to be more innovative,
more entrepreneurial and government should be the catalyst…Now, I talk a
lot about people being this country
ʹ
s greatest asset because the next boom
is the ideas boomI want the APS to be part of that boom. That
ʹ
s why one
of the pillars of our innovation agenda is government as an exemplar. I want
you to be bold in your thinking. I want you to lead by example.
But is government prepared to be the catalyst and the exemplar? The Institute for Governance and Policy
Analysis (IGPA) was commissioned by Telstra in February and March 2016 to explore this question through
in-depth interviews with digital thought leaders working at the heart of the change process in
Commonwealth, Territory and State government. The findings that are synthesized in this executive
summary are organised around six key questions. (1) What are the drivers of digital change? (2) How is
government responding? (3) From where does Australia learn its digital lessons? (4) Are there examples
where the government is acting as a digital exemplar? (5) What are the main barriers being confronted?
And, (6) how can strong, mutually beneficial digital partnerships be built and nurtured?
‘Connected Government’ 8
1.1 WHAT ARE THE DRIVERS OF DIGITAL
CHANGE?
All of our respondents identified prevailing macro-
economic conditions as a stimulus to digital
change. This was variously associated with ‘cost
containment’, ‘doing more with less’, the
‘austerity-climate’, ‘getting best value’, achieving
‘productivity gains’, ‘returning the budget to
surplus’ or ‘the next logical step after fiscal
consolidation’. The majority were of the view that
austerity provided fertile conditions for digital
change, but that in the short term it also
complicated the investments needed to achieve
medium to long-term efficiency gains.
Notably most respondents recognized that the
pace of digital change had accelerated as a
consequence of the emergence of a strong
political agenda fostered by Prime Minister
Malcolm Turnbull ‘who gets technology and the
opportunities that it provides for improving
problem-solving in a period of fiscal constraint’. At
the same time there is also overwhelming
evidence of the need for government to respond to
a culture shift in Australian society where
consumerisation has heightened citizen
expectation for quality on-line service interactions
‘any time, any place, anywhere’.1
1
See: ATO,
http://lets-talk.ato.gov.au/Digitalbydefault/news_feed/digital-by-
default-consultation-paper-november, accessed 22 March 2016.
1.2 HOW IS GOVERNMENT RESPONDING?
Most of our interviewees acknowledged that this
was a period of accelerated change or as one
informant put it ‘Uber change’, where digitisation
is enabling significant strides in the ways in which
data is collected and analysed (‘data is the new
oil’); where insatiable demand for quality services
can be met (‘digital is a survival strategy – how
else will we cope?’); and where government can
play an important role in facilitating economic
development and promoting Australian products
(‘digital provides government with a more obvious
role to play in facilitating economic development’).
We found evidence of a very significant agenda of
change underway but also observed that ‘digital
era’ risks have grown. These include: threats from
cyber-attacks and e-security breaches; digital
expansions in the competencies of criminals,
terrorists and hackers; and scale increases in the
scope of consequences if contemporary digital
security or storage provisions are breached,
deliberately or inadvertently.
‘Connected Government’ 9
1.3 FROM WHERE DOES AUSTRALIA LEARN ITS
DIGITAL LESSONS?
Most informants were of the view that ‘Australia is
currently playing catch-up with its European
counterparts’ with regard to digital change but ‘we
compare well with the US. Some argued that the
APS was not very open to new ideas but others
that internationalisation involves both informal
and formal processes of policy learning through
professions and international organisations.
Although the source of learning depends on the
nature of the digital innovation, the APS tends to
learn most of its digital lessons from the
Anglophone countries such as the United Kingdom
(e.g. digital service delivery), New Zealand (e.g.
data integration) and the domestic banking sector
(e.g. data integration and fraud deterrence). Many
informants (including at least five with a UK
background) questioned the UK case as a positive
exemplar (‘but negative lessons can often be more
important’).
The countries that were impacted most profoundly
by the Global Financial Crisis appear to have
embraced digital disruption most extensively; in
particularly, New Zealand and the UK. Estonia was
the exception in this regard. Most interviewees
referred to the Estonian example as a source of
emulation but recognized that it wasn’t perhaps
the most exportable example given the countries
state of development and different base-line for
change. Frequent mention was also made to the
Nordic countries and particularly Denmark and the
work of the Danish Agency for Science, Technology
and Innovation and Mindlab.
1.4 WHERE IS GOVERNMENT ACTING AS A
DIGITAL EXEMPLAR?
It should be noted that Australia is currently
ranked second behind South Korea in the UN
world rankings for the quality of its E-government
(UN 2014, p. 15). However, most respondents were
of the view that it is this period of change which
will lead to Australia’s anointment as a pioneer in
digital innovation. Many respondents pointed to
examples of APS agencies acting as digital
exemplars. The size of the agency, its history and
core business and its proximity in relationship to
the primary government agenda tends to inform
the selection of examples. For example, the
Australian Tax Office (ATO) and the departments of
Human Services (DHS) or Employment have long
histories of engagement in digital innovation due
to the large number of transactions they conduct
on-line and their potential for joining-up other
service areas. Most agencies see significant
potential for Artificial Intelligence in enhancing
citizen interactions with government and Big Data
analytics for improving the quality of real-time
decision-making. ATO’s Roadmap of Change for
Tax Professionals is a good example of a high
quality interactive on-line platform and CSIRO’s
Data 61, and Big Data and Earth Observation
project delivered via the AuScope Grid will provide
a significant contribution to the generation of
quality data for real-time decision-making. In
addition, the Digital Transformation Office (DTO)
has been established as a strategic
Commonwealth resource for experimentation in
the co-design of new digital services and the
creation of the National Innovation and Science
Agenda’s (NISA) Digital Marketplace will provide a
‘one stop shop’ for accessing digital capability. In
sum, digital exemplars can be identified in the
delivery of on-line services, digitally enabled real
time decision-making through advanced data
analytics, the use of artificial intelligence and
governance mechanisms to enable change.
‘Connected Government’ 10
1.5 WHAT ARE THE MAIN BARRIERS BEING
CONFRONTED?
So what did our respondents perceive to be the
main barriers to digital change? Familiar themes
to those well versed in APS culture were raised
mostly focusing on cultural barriers (e.g.
perceptions of a risk averse and digitally unaware
policy elite), legislative barriers (e.g. privacy and
procurement laws inhibiting ‘tell us once’ and ‘ask
us once’ innovations), resource barriers (e.g.
archaic budget rules) and capability barriers.
The most significant of these is viewed to be the
capability deficit which is commonly viewed to be
the major barrier to accelerating digital change
both in the public sector and in Australia more
generally. The APS requires greater technology
leadership at the Executive level service-wide to
strategically manage and lead this scale of digital
change. Departments with major digital projects
face serious capability constraints in getting
skilled staff. And profound changes are required at
the tertiary education and postgraduate training
levels to ensure fit for purpose digital capability. It
appears that the need for STEM postgraduate
education has reached crisis proportions in
Australia.
1.6 HOW CAN STRONG, MUTUALLY
PRODUCTIVE DIGITAL PARTNERSHIPS
BE BUILT AND NURTURED?
The APS has a broad range of technology partners
to enhance capability in software and application
design, the establishment and management of
data centres and government Cloud IT services,
data analysis, co-design of new business
processes (e.g. shared services), the design of
‘one-stop’ provisions and increasingly ‘ask-once’
processes. Most interviewees were sceptical
about the capability of agencies to build strong
and lasting technology partnerships. Nonetheless,
our informants identified similar ingredients of
better practice for forging productive technology
partnerships. These included a variation of the
following qualities: ‘clear mission or purpose’;
‘common understanding of the problem or task’;
‘mutual recognition of interdependence’; ‘respect’;
‘shared responsibility’; ‘joint financial investment’;
‘clear ground rules’; ‘process transparency and
accountability’ and ‘flexibility’. It was envisaged
that these qualities would help to foster trust
systems and build problem-solving capability.
There was divided opinion as to whether a set of
common values were required to underpin the
venture. These observations are in keeping with
better practice in collaborative governance.
‘Connected Government’ 11
2. SEEING DIGITAL
There is compelling evidence that digital change is transforming agencies with significant service delivery
and data analytic functions in a radical way. Moreover, there is a strong current of opinion within the APS
elite that there is a tangible difference to this process of change reflected in the strategic alignment
between the Turnbull Agenda and the desire in the ‘Digital First’ and data driven departments to exploit
advances in technology for more efficient decision making and service delivery. However, concerns remain
over the capacity of the APS to access the capability necessary to make a great leap forward lending
support to the importance of a digital workforce capability review, a revised understanding of the role of the
CIO and the development of a Commonwealth Digital Academy. Moreover, there is still much to be done in
the APS to clearly articulate the purpose and benefits of digital change and embed it in the hearts and
minds of all public servants.
‘Connected Government’ 12
2.1 SIGHTING SHOTS
Digital Era Governance (DEG) changes made
feasible by Internet and Web-based technologies
and applications are beginning to move to centre
stage in many public services around the world
(see Table 1). They are increasingly vital to
executive government operations in all advanced
industrial states, albeit with a ‘culture lag’
compared with business and many civil society
adaptations. The hitherto dominant paradigm of
‘new public management’ (NPM) commonly
practiced in Westminster-style democracies,
marginalized technological changes in favour of a
managerialist emphasis on organizational
arrangements and strong corporate leadership.
This reflects a long-running tendency of public
administration to downgrade technological
factors; a view that some academics have argued
should be fundamentally reappraised (Politt,
2011; Margetts and Dunleavy 2013).
Australia was an early leader in e-Government
(Accenture 2003; Chen et al., 2007), developing an
international reputation that peaked around 1999.
After that time, progress has been rather mixed.
Australia still fares well in the plethora of
consultancy rankings of e-Government and some
of the largest departments have remained at the
forefront of innovation in this area particularly in
the realm of simplifying citizen interactions with
government. However, Digital Era Governance 1
(DEG1) interventions that successfully ‘join up’
across departments or tiers of government
(reintegration), or attempts to create client
focused structures for agencies through “end to
end” redesign of services (needs-based holism) or
“digital by default” electronic delivery of services
have remained scarce. Not to mention DEG2
interventions (using the ‘internet of things’) that
fully exploit the opportunities afforded by the
social web or build capability in Big Data analytics
or Artificial Intelligence. But is this now changing?
Are we currently living through a decisive culture
shift towards DEG in Australia? (see Table 1).
Table 1: Four Models of bureaucracy and the IT/digital role
MODEL SERVICE ARCHITECTURE ROLE OF IT/ DIGITAL
New public management
Managerialist modernization focusing
on disaggregation, competition and
incentivization
Peripheral - initial tokenistic IT
adoption for better service, but strong
oligopolistic IT markets, weak e-Gov,
no citizen/consumer role
Digital Era Governance 1
Reintegration and early holism;
digitalization of paper/phone-based
systems, basic nodality
Central - first wave transactional e-
services and static web sites, portals –
still at periphery
Digital Era Governance 2
Austerity-strengthened reintegration;
proactive needs-based holism; more
nodality
Core - social media, rich media, co-
production, cloud/utility IT, early
‘timestream’ starts
EDGE
Essentially Digital GovernancE
Inherently digital-by-design services; free or low cost scalable services,
displacing legacy models. Intelligent centre/devolved delivery
architectures; state bureaucracy is nodal actor in the societal time-stream
‘Connected Government’ 13
2.2 PURPOSE
The purpose of this report is to kick-start some
thinking at the Connected Government CEO Circle
on the opportunities for government in a digital
world. What are the drivers of digital change? How
is government responding? What are the main
barriers being confronted? Where is government
acting as a digital exemplar? How can strong,
mutually productive digital partnerships be built
and nurtured? As a starting point to this important
long conversation between CEOs and their
government counterparts, this report presents the
findings from a survey of digital thought leaders
working at the heart of the change process in
Commonwealth, Territory and State government.
Two stages of research informed this task. First, at
the exploratory stage, we co-designed and
processed an on-line survey of the perceptions of
Summit invitees to the critical challenges of
digitisation. Second, we used the findings from the
scoping survey to shape the questions for 34 elite
interviews which were conducted with senior
members of the APS and special advisors on
digital change. The interviewees were selected on
the basis that they had executive voice i.e. the
capacity to influence decision-making. We focused
on the following topics:
current challenges to the APS within context of
current macroeconomic conditions;
views around policy reform and government
priorities;
perceptions of the potential contribution of
digital transformation to enhancing the quality
of service provision;
views of how prepared the APS is for 2020;
insights to managing and delivering to
public/citizen expectations in an austerity
context;
understanding of barriers to reform; and,
identification of critical dilemmas and better
practice.
Table 2 shows that our thought leaders were
drawn from top roles relevant to digital change,
and covered every key department and many
agencies. We are grateful to everyone involved for
sparing us so much of their scarce time and
answering our questions so fully and insightfully.2
Table 2: The role of our interviewees
Secretary, or Agency Head or National
Manager 16
Deputy Secretary 5
CIO with executive voice 8
Senior advisors to government on
digital/innovation 6
Total interviewees 34
2
The typology of departments/agencies that we used to inform our
selection of organisations for interview and a list of the
departments/agencies participating in the research can be found at
Appendix 1.
‘Connected Government’ 14
The remaining substantive sections of this report
present our findings in response to the six core
questions identified above: (1) What are the drivers
of digital change? (2) How is government
responding? (3) From where does Australia learn
its digital lessons? (4) Are there examples where
the government is acting as a digital exemplar? (5)
What are the main barriers being confronted?
And, (6) how can strong, mutually beneficial digital
partnerships be built and nurtured?
2.3 WHAT IS DRIVING DIGITAL CHANGE ACROSS
THE PUBLIC SERVICES?
We live in a digital era, where rapid and disruptive
change in societal behaviours and
industrial/economic patterns have become the
norm. When we asked our interviewees if digital
changes had now plateaued, or were likely to
continue in the next decade at or above the pace of
recent years, they unanimously chose the latter.
No one in government now expects a ‘quiet life’ on
the technology and organizational fronts – a
significant change from senior leaders’
expectations in earlier periods.
Yet the full scope and character of digital change
was variously perceived and expressed by
differently located interviewees, reflecting their
departmental and portfolio experiences.
Relatively few people felt that they had a
comprehensive overview, and so we have compiled
Figure 1, which shows the key pressures and
trends pointed to by our interviewees as a whole.
In the top left corner, we locate the two outside
trends that interviewees saw as having most
impact on government, namely the growth of new
technology giants such as Google, Facebook,
Amazon and Twitter on the one hand; and the
readiness of consumers to increasingly live their
lives digitally and online, in the process making
huge amounts of information about themselves
available to commercial and civil society actors.
These and other changes have precipitated eight
very substantial challenges for Australian public
service agencies as a whole:
1. Citizens expect to contact and transact with
government agencies digitally and online.
Standards for digital services delivery set in the
private sector increasingly apply to government
agencies. Citizens and enterprises that are
‘digital natives’ expect to interact with
government in standard modern ways and take
a dim view of services delivered inadequately
online, or using technologies of yesteryear.
2. Government must de facto shift towards
designing and delivering digital services that
are designed to operate digitally from the
outset and have no (major) non-digital
existence. This marks a major change from the
previous era of lightly or later digitizing services
originally conceived for an era of paper forms or
over-the-counter offices delivery.
In the modern era too, digital delivery is the key
foundation for enhancing the productivity of
government services. Going digital is an
essential precursor to replacing ‘volumetric’
regulation with risk-based assessments, for
instance. Top executives of the major
departments transacting with citizens and
business see investing to stay connected with
civil society as an essential element of their
business process development – and recent IT
spends are large percentages of some major
agencies’ total budgets.
A recognition of the scale and importance of
challenges 1 and 2 underlies Australia’s
establishment of the Digital Transformation
Office, and the DTO has focused largely on
these aspects to date. But in addition, there are
changes 3 to 8 below:
3. The inherently digital content of many
agencies’ work is increasing rapidly. To keep
pace with external digital change many public
services formerly seen as ‘labour intensive’ are
grappling with digital tasks in order to carry out
their core functions. For instance, a police bust
on a crystal meth production/distribution site
may uncover no documentation, but perhaps a
‘Connected Government’ 15
terabyte of digital information contained on
(say) 40 mobile phones used randomly,
numerous memory stick, and perhaps a couple
of iPads or PCs – much of the information being
encrypted. Similarly, a junior doctor clocking on
for a ten-hour shift in an emergency room may
click a mouse 4,000 times in ten hours. And
once paper-heavy departments like customs or
immigration have moved towards risk-based
assessment or robot passport gates, where all
key information loads are handled digitally and
only relatively rare (if vital) exceptions trigger
in-person inspections. In a digital society, every
regulatory agency must also understand and be
able to predict how social behaviours change,
and new forms of digitally strengthened threats
and risks to social welfare arise and evolve.
4. Back-office functions across government now
must continuously upgrade. Previous
expectations were often for long stasis periods,
interposed by ‘big bang’ IT refreshes – often
with government agencies’ desktops, websites
and communications technology lagging years
behind those used in private businesses and
civil society. Now, though, top decision-makers
recognize that they must be continuously in
touch with wider societal standards, that their
mission-critical IT must stay up to date and
their internal organization must constantly
adjust and improve, in part to help generate the
substantial resources needed for IT and online
changes.
5. Increasing volumes of digital information
relevant for public policy-making are now
generated in society, and already are or might
become available to government for free or at
minimal recovery cost. These include:
administrative data generated by firms (rarely
available at present); but also much data
accessible by APIs (automatic programming
interfaces); and information put online by
citizens on social media etc. With the right
analytic talent, government agencies may be
able to expand their research and information
competencies radically, perhaps especially
important for a top-level government in a
federation.
6. There is a large 'big data' potential within
government itself. Public service agencies
generate huge volumes of their own
administrative data, which many respondents
told us they are only just beginning to analyse.
Especially when linked together across
departments or administrative siloes, when
better integrated with digital indices,
connected with other sources (such as national
statistics and private sector big data), and
when supplemented via machine learning,
there is great potential for developing new
information capacities and better policy
solutions across government.
7. New competitors have entered the
government IT market, with cloud companies
and providers offering alternative solutions to
most government IT problems - ranging from
equipping the desktop in smaller, policy-only
departments through to new ways of storing
and analysing huge volumes of transactional
data. Entrants such as Google or Amazon Web
Services are developing extended expertise in
areas previously dominated by a relatively few
system integrator companies, increasing the
competition in ICT procurement.
8. Scalable and genuinely 'for free' services can
increasingly be generated across many areas of
civil government. Wherever statutory services
are provided, and non-confidential policy-
relevant information accumulates, opening up
government's digital assets in active ways
offers huge potential for government or others
to develop scalable service products that can
add marginal consumers and boost economic
welfare at virtually zero cost. Sometimes 'open
data' provision may be enough for SMEs to
grow apps - as with transport apps telling
customers when their next bus is coming. At
other times a modest public sector investment
in a dedicated application or website can
generate information gains for citizens directly
- as with the British Land registry which makes
all English house prices public for free, as a by-
product of certifying the sale transfers of
properties.
‘Connected Government’ 16
Figure 1: The main types of pressure for ‘digital era’ changes in contemporary public services
By any standards the digital agenda here is a huge one. Yet the final component of Figure 2 is the right hand
margin box – which stresses that ‘digital era’ risks have also grown. These include threats from cyber-
attacks and e-security breaches; digital expansions in the competencies of criminals, terrorists and
hackers; and scale increases in the scope of consequences if contemporary digital security or storage
provisions are breached, deliberately or inadvertently. Government cannot any longer meet these risks by
trying to stay off the Web, however, or simply creating ‘air gaps’ between critical systems and the internet.
Instead, in a connected world, government systems need to be continuously, actively and agilely defended,
not least by securing top talents and modernized systems to maintain essential security.
The most frequently mentioned drivers of digital change by our sample of thought leaders are listed in
Table 3 and encompass political, economic, social and technological issues.
Table 3: Most frequently mentioned drivers of change
Turnbull-effect and creation of
digital governance policy
instruments
Public opinion, consumerisation
and rising citizen expectations for
personalised service provision
A
dvances in DEG2 technologies
create new opportunity structures for
innovation (e.g. artificial intelligence,
social media and Big Data)
MACRO-ECONOMIC CONDITIONS SMALLER GOVERNMENT PRESSURES CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT IN SERVICES
‘Connected Government’ 17
Macro-economic conditions
All of our respondents identified prevailing macro-economic conditions as a stimulus to digital change. This
was variously associated with ‘cost containment’, ‘doing more with less’, the ‘austerity-climate’, ‘getting
best value’, achieving ‘productivity gains’, ‘returning the budget to surplus’ or ‘the next logical step after
fiscal consolidation’.3 The majority were of the view that austerity provided fertile conditions for digital
change, but that in the short term it also complicated the investments needed to achieve medium to long-
term efficiency gains.
A Turnbull-effect?
Many respondents recognized that the pace of digital change had accelerated as a consequence of the
emergence of a strong political agenda fostered by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull ‘who gets technology
and the opportunities that it provides for improving problem-solving in a period of fiscal constraint’.
‘Yes the ‘Turnbull-effect’ has been huge. Largely because for him achieving
innovation through technology is a natural thing’.
‘The process has definitely accelerated since he [Turnbull] became Prime
Minister but there was an electoral commitment to Digital First in 2013’.
‘The notion of government as digital exemplar creates a space for the
digitally-minded to innovate.’
‘Turnbull is a vibe by which people feel empowered to change things’.
A potential drawback of dependence on Prime Ministerial involvement was also mentioned by some
observers, namely that in Westminster systems around the world PMs typically accumulate more issues to
keep in view the longer they are in office. Maintaining momentum behind digital transformation may thus
become progressively more difficult, unless it is successfully institutionalised early on.
A digital culture shift?
At the same time, as noted above, there is also evidence of the need for government to respond to a culture
shift in Australian society where increasing numbers of citizens have become ‘IT literate’ and expect the
same quality of transactions with government that they experience with private service providers through
their IPad or smart phone. There were approximately 12.8 million internet subscribers in Australia at the
end of June 2015 with only 1.3 million without access 4. As Table 4 illustrates, consumerisation has
heightened citizen expectation for quality on-line service interactions ‘any time, any place, anywhere’ and
this is particularly evident in the uptake of smart phone technology.
3
Unless otherwise stated all quotations are taken from interviews conducted with APS digital thought leaders.
4
See ABS, http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/8153.0/
‘Connected Government’ 18
Figure 2: Device ownership and mobile usage
Source: 2014 AIMIA Mobile Phone Lifestyle Index
Continuous improvement and the acquisition of
enabling technologies
Although most of our interviewees acknowledged
that this was a period of accelerated change or as
one informant put it ‘’Uber change’, digital
modernisation has been occurring incrementally
through a stop-go process of incremental change
catalysed by periodic events such as changes in
legislation (e.g. 1988 Privacy Act, 1999 Electronic
Transactions Act, 2001 Government Procurement
Act, 2014 Privacy Act), the acquisition of new
enabling technologies (e.g. Artificial Intelligence,
Big Data, cloud, smart phones, wireless sensor
networks) and the drive for increased productivity.
This period is therefore variously defined by our
informants as one where digitisation is enabling
significant strides in the ways in which data is
collected and analysed (‘data is the new oil’, ‘data
is the new black’); where insatiable demand for
quality services can be met (‘digital is a survival
strategy – how else will we cope?’); and where
government can play an important role in
facilitating economic development and promoting
Australian products (‘digital provides government
with a more obvious role to play in facilitating
economic development’).
There was, however, a view that the APS requires a
period of disruptive change to make more
profound alterations in how things get done –
‘…we respond really well in a crisis and can
innovate very quickly under pressure but not under
normal conditions; this says a lot really!’
The impact of these key drivers on APS
departments and agencies differs depending on
the agency portfolio (i.e. policy, delivery, regulatory
role) and size. Large departments with over 50,000
citizen interactions per annum now have ‘Digital
by Default’ targets (basically to accomplish 80% of
transactions with citizens online by 2017) and
have adopted ‘Digital First’ mentalities. Smaller
agencies (depending on their core business) tend
89%
73%
61% 60% 58% 51%
34% 34% 30%
% OF AUSTRALIANS…
…own a
smartphone
…have
made a
purchase
online …would
choose their
mobile over
their TV
…have
access to
a tablet
…have made
a purchase on
a smartphone
…are happy
to receive
offers on
their mobile
device from
brands they
like
…would like
to use their
phone as a
credit card
…do no have
a land line
…either own
or plan to
own a
wearable
device
before the
end of 2015
‘Connected Government’ 19
to adopt a needs-based approach due to
budgetary constraints and are, on the whole,
pragmatic compliers.
2.4 WHAT ARE THE BARRIERS TO CHANGE?
Again patterns of opinion tend to differ depending
on the agency portfolio (i.e. policy, delivery,
regulatory role) and size. Table 4 illustrates the
main barriers to change, and by implication the
key concerns for any change leadership strategy.
They cluster around cultural, legislative, resource
and capability barriers. Perceptions of the degree
of risk associated with these barriers differ
considerably. It is interesting to note that typical
environmental barriers such as political support,
public opinion and behaviour or prevailing socio-
economic conditions are seen as potential
catalysts or drivers rather than barriers to change.
One political barrier was highlighted by informants
– the pathology of short-termism brought about by
the three-year electoral cycle and 24/7 media
cycle inhibits the adoption of a long-term view
which is critical to affecting sustainable digital
change. As we shall see, however, several
informants believed that barriers such as risk
aversion, legislation and investment were often
used as an excuse not to lead change.
Table 4: Most frequently mentioned barriers to change
CULTURAL BARRIERS
to change leadership
LEGISLATIVE BARRIERS
to joining up in areas such as privacy,
procurement and the use of DEG2 technologies
POLITICAL BARRIERS
to adopting a long term view
RESOURCE BARRIERS
to upgrade an innovate
CAPABILITY BARRIERS
to adapt and innovate
Cultural barriers
‘Digital change is not about IT. It goes to the root and branch of what we do
and how we do it’.
The cultural barriers – “the dominant ways we do things around here” – to digital change were also referred
to by the majority of informants. These include:
1. "Government tends to work like a machine rather than a system; digital requires a systems approach
because it should be behavioural in character".
2. "The separation of the policy elite from delivery means that key expertise is locked out of policy design
particularly in relation to service design."
3. "The policy elite is dominated by formal economists and their policy values. They have little time for any
method that questions their assumptions about how the world works."
‘Connected Government’ 20
4. "There is insufficient understanding of what the public values or empathy - the policy elite assumes that
citizens want to engage with government. They exaggerate their importance. The majority of citizens
want to have as little to do with government as possible."
There was also reference to the dominance of an “IT tribe” that has relatively cohesive values that are
antipathetic to conceptions of open data or using the ‘internet of things’.
Executive voice through digital champions is also perceived to be an important catalyst to change
prompting some insiders to propose a radical review of the traditional CIO role to ensure that agencies have
a sound grasp of digital issues. In some smaller, less citizen-centric agencies there is perceived to be an
absence of a digital strategic perspective. Digital change is often treated as IT management and a ‘wait and
see’ approach drives many digital investment and enabling decisions leading to perceptions of a culture of
risk aversion. However, it is also remarkable that IT change is one area where there has been significant
toleration of failure in the APS (often viewed as a key trigger to public sector innovation – see Mulgan and
Albury, 2003).
“Over the past decade several big IT projects have fallen over and the
failure has been tolerated. IT is the one area where we haven’t been
risk averse”.
“The inability to access resources to deal with old IT is a problem of
leadership. The more politically adept secretaries have not found this to
be a problem”.
It is notable that in many agencies digital culture
shift has already occurred at the individual rather
than the organisational level. Indeed, the degree to
which a “Digital First” approach has been taken is
reflected in whether digital concerns have been
mainstreamed into the organisational culture or
compartmentalised into a unit or office. In many
agencies significant cultural barriers to deep
digital change persist. So what makes it so hard to
be strategic in digital government? Perceptions
oscillate around seven main areas where
difficulties arise in strategic thinking and the
implementation of digital strategy in government.
1. Commissioning. Daily operational pressures on
both the political and permanent leadership
can tend to 'squeeze' strategic working out of
the system.
2. Analysis. Strategic analysis can either be too
short term and trend-based to help steer the
organisation or too far-fetched and improbable
to hold the attention of policy-makers.
3. Line of sight. Strategy work can seem to be
exclusively about high-level goals, or it can
seem to be purely about a particular set of
policies, or it can appear to be a preoccupation
with functional strategies or with delivery
planning. Line of sight is achieved when there is
a clear line between delivery in the community
and the high-level goals the organisation has
set itself.
4. Product but not enough process. Strategies
that create change within organisations and in
the world beyond are the result of a process
driven by those who work in the organisation
and its stakeholders. Yet too often they are
simply documents produced by a small group of
‘Connected Government’ 21
consultants which do not create new
understanding, still less change.
5. Insufficient challenge. A common complaint in
government and the wider public sector is that
public servants are poor innovators. Strategy
requires new understanding and a
preparedness to do things in new ways,
challenging received wisdom. Yet government
tends to incentivise compliance and conformity
in its employees and restrict challenge.
6. Uncertainty about public value. Outcomes can
be identified using sound analysis, but they
also need both the mandate of political leaders
and their sustained interest. This means that
the organisation as a whole must be capable of
focusing on a set of goals and returning to them
again and again.
7. Lack of strategic capability. Prime Ministers
and Ministers in Westminster-style
democracies regularly bemoan the absence of
strategic capability within their organisations
often resulting in the increasing use of special
advisors and consultants.
Legislative barriers
Our interviewees were divided on the significance
of the legislative barriers to change. Several
emphasised that a priori legislation was a
prerequisite for disruptive change. ‘Tell us once’
(a joined up information management system) is
not possible within existing federal privacy laws. A
similar problem was viewed to apply to
procurement laws and the capacity of agencies to
use different digital channels of communication
and delivery. However, others argued equally
forcefully that the call for legislation was ‘an
excuse for inertia’: ‘There is normally significant
room for manoeuvre in legislation. If the political
intent is there; you can make the change’.
Resource barriers
The key resource barriers to digital change are
largely associated with finance (budgeting and
investment), and a range of capability problems.
Budget rules (e.g. persistence of annual budget
cycles) are perceived by some to be ‘a serious
impediment to establishing and maintaining the
necessary digital infrastructure for transformative
change’. Others were of the view that the
Department of Finance ‘could be convinced with a
sound business case’; whilst others perceived
Finance and Treasury as ‘compliance-based
organisations with no business understanding’.
‘There is enough space to do it but you have to do it yourself”.
‘We can always find a budget rule to suit us’.
It is noteworthy, that the creative centre of the innovation agenda in New South Wales is in the Department
of Finance and Innovation; although states do assume a greater delivery role than in Commonwealth
agencies. There was a strong consensus of opinion that investment in digital infrastructure needed to be
closely aligned with national innovation needs with a small number of informants arguing that Australia
required a National Digital Infrastructure Initiative.
There was also a strong perception that the Australian public service does not know its digital workforce
capability and by implication its present and future workforce needs.
‘Connected Government’ 22
We don’t have the workforce to deliver on a digital revolution’.
‘We do have the skills but they are in short supply’
The Australian Public Service Commission’s 2014-15 State of the Service report does include data
illuminating this issue and in a separate segment of the report compiled by the Digital Transformation
Office the capability challenge was acutely defined:
‘[T]he majority of respondents indicate that they know their agencies need
to make greater progress, but feel under-equipped to meet the challenges
of digital transformation. The 2015 agency survey identified a clear gap in
capability. This includes the need for comprehensive digital planning
across the APS and the need to ensure digital strategies are integrated
with broader agency strategic planning’.
5
Three perspectives on capability loom large amongst responses to this question. A first view was (as noted
above), that the APS does not possess sufficient technology leadership at the Executive level service-wide
to strategically manage and lead digital change. Second, some agencies with major IT projects clearly face
serious capability constraints in getting skilled staff but agencies with modest IT effort report few
difficulties. Capability constraints are reported in the following areas: digital strategists, data scientists
and analytics, cyber security, and user experience professionals. Third, establishing mutually satisfactory
technology partnerships is perceived to be a throttle to change.
‘As soon as we develop the capability it is gobbled up by one of our
partners’.
2.5 FROM WHERE DOES AUSTRALIA DRAW ITS DIGITAL LESSONS?
Most informants were of the view that ‘Australia is currently playing catch-up with its European
counterparts’ with regard to digital change but ‘we compare well with the US’. Some argued that the APS
was not very open to new ideas but others that internationalisation involves both informal and formal
processes of policy learning through professions and international organisations.
‘Canberra is very insular; closed to what happens in other countries and
industries – a ‘we know best’ approach tends to dominate which is
blatantly absurd’.
5
See: http://stateoftheservice.apsc.gov.au/2015/10/digital-transformation-in-the-aps/ (accessed 29 March 2016).
‘Connected Government’ 23
‘We shamelessly take ideas from wherever we can find them’.
‘We tend to cherry pick positive and negative lessons from certain
countries and international organisations such as the OECD’.
The APS tends to learn most of its digital lessons from the Anglophone countries such as the United
Kingdom (e.g. digital service delivery), New Zealand (e.g. data integration) and the Banking sector (e.g. data
integration and fraud deterrence). Many informants (including at least five with a UK background)
questioned the UK case as a positive exemplar (‘but negative lessons can often be more important’). The
countries that were impacted most profoundly by the Global Financial Crisis appear to have embraced
digital disruption; in particularly, New Zealand and the UK. Estonia was the exception in this regard. Most
interviewees referred to the Estonian example as a source of emulation but recognized that it wasn’t
perhaps the most exportable example given the countries state of development and different base-line for
change. Frequent mention was also made to the Nordic countries and particularly Denmark and the work of
the Danish Agency for Science, Technology and Innovation and Mindlab.
Table 5: Most frequently mentioned sources of learning
AREA OF INNOVATION EXEMPLAR
Data (reintegration) Estonia’s X-Road connects all the decentralised components of its e-Government data
system; New Zealand Integrated Data Infrastructure; Denmark Data Registers
On-line digital service
delivery
Banking sector (e.g. Commonwealth Bank); Denmark Mindlab and codesign
interventions; Estonia’s eID is the nationally standardized system for verifying a person’s
identity in an online environment; Singapore’s VITAL shared services system; UK Digital
Transformation Strategy GOV.UK
Regulation for digital era
governance New Zealand Financial Management Reforms
2.6 WHERE CAN WE FIND GOVERNMENT ACTING AS AN EXEMPLAR WITHIN AUSTRALIA?
It should be noted that Australia is currently ranked second behind South Korea in the UN world rankings
for the quality of its E-government (UN 2014, p. 15). However, most respondents were of the view that it is
this period of change which will lead to Australia’s anointment as a pioneer in digital innovation. Many
respondents pointed to examples of Australian public service agencies acting as digital exemplars. Table 7
shows that the schemes most nominated cover a range of DEG1 and DEG2 reforms. The size of the agency,
its history and core business and its proximity in relationship to the primary government agenda tends to
inform the selection of examples. For example, the ATO and the DHS have long histories of engagement in
digital innovation due to the large number of transactions they conduct on-line and their potential for
joining-up other service areas (ANAO, 2009).
‘Connected Government’ 24
It will be important to monitor and evaluate these interventions carefully to assure proof of concept. Most
agencies see significant potential for Artificial Intelligence in enhancing citizen interactions with
government and Big Data analytics for improving the quality of real-time decision-making. Table 6 also
demonstrates the wide range of innovations currently taking place in these areas.
The appetite within the citizenry for digital service delivery is also on the rise:
Table 6: Most frequently mentioned government exemplars
AREA OF INNOVATION EXEMPLAR
Artificial intelligence (DEG2) DHS NDI scheme
Data capability enhanced
through
ABS CPI and Freight Movement Projects;
ABS On-line First Census;
DEG2 digital enablers
CSIRO Cotton Research;
CSIRO Data 61;
CSIRO Big Data and Earth Observation delivered via the AuScope Grid;
Department of Finance E-invoicing system and Digital Budget;
GeoScience Remote Sensing project enabled through Data cube technology via
Landsat satellites
Governance (institutional
mechanisms to enable and
exploit digitisation) (DEG1)
Digital Transformation Office,
NISA Delivery Unit,
PM&C Innovation and Transformation Team,
Policy Office DSS
Investment (DEG2) DSS Investment Approach using analytics and Big Data capability
Procurement(DEG1) NISA’s Digital Marketplace
On-line digital service
delivery(DEG1)
ATO’s Roadmap of Change for Tax Professionals, and My Tax;
Department of Employment’s Work for the Dole Supervisor App; DHS’s MyGov;
Service NSW
Regulation Driverless Vehicle Regulation (National Transport Commission);
Identity management(ATO and PM&C)
6
See: ATO, http://lets-talk.ato.gov.au/Digitalbydefault/news_feed/digital-by-default-consultation-paper-november (accessed 22 March 2016).
‘Connected Government’ 25
2.7 WHAT TECHNOLOGY PARTNERSHIPS
ARE WORKING AND WHY?
The APS has a broad range of technology partners
to enhance capability in software and application
design, the establishment and management of
data centres and government Cloud IT services,
data analysis, co-design of new business
processes (e.g. shared services), the design of
‘one-stop’ provisions and increasingly ‘ask-once’
processes (see Table 7). As noted above, most
interviewees were sceptical about the capability of
agencies to build strong and lasting technology
partnerships. As one respondent put it: ‘Many
Commonwealth agencies (with some high profile
exceptions) do not know how to work
collaboratively with digital industries’ (defined in
the broadest sense to also include creative
industries and other sources of collaboration and
innovation).
Nonetheless, our informants identified similar
ingredients of better practice for forging
productive technology partnerships. These
included a variation of the following qualities:
‘clear mission or purpose’; ‘common
understanding of the problem or task’; ‘mutual
recognition of interdependence’; ‘respect’; ‘shared
responsibility’; ‘joint financial investment’; ‘clear
ground rules’; ‘process transparency and
accountability’ and ‘flexibility’. It was envisaged
that these qualities would help to foster trust
systems and build problem-solving capability.
There was divided opinion as to whether a set of
common values were required to underpin the
venture. These observations are in keeping with
better practice in collaborative governance (see
Ansell and 2008; O’Flynn and Wanna 2008).
Table 7: Most frequently mentioned technology
partnerships
PARTNER FUNCTION
EMC Data storage
Accenture IT consultancy, system integrator
IBM System integration
Microsoft Desktop, software
Oracle Enterprise solutions
SAP Enterprise solutions
Telstra Communications
2.8 DIGITAL DILEMMAS
Our research identifies at least nine dilemmas
which could provide focus areas for enhancing the
strategic management of the change process and
mainstreaming digital behaviours in the workplan
of the APS. These dilemmas can be organised
around cultural, legislative, resource and
capability barriers. In practice, these barriers
interact with one another in a dynamic way and
impact directly and indirectly on the
implementation of digital change. Each dilemma
prompts a strategic question which can help guide
our thinking at the Summit.
Cultural barriers
1. A 'wait and see' approach still drives many
digital investment and enabling decisions in
some agencies prompting perceptions of a
culture of risk aversion. DEG culture shift is
occurring in agencies with significant customer
interaction or Big Data needs. It has also
occurred at the individual public servant level
rather than the organisational level and is
benefiting from a "Turnbull-effect" -a strong
political agenda fostered by Prime Minister
Malcolm Turnbull 'who gets technology and the
opportunities that it provides for improving
problem-solving in a period of fiscal constraint'.
‘Connected Government’ 26
Can the public service change itself or does it
require concerted and ongoing political will to
make the change?
2. The APS is yet to clearly articulate the purpose
of digital change and embed it in the hearts and
minds of its leadership. A limited view of digital
change, confined by department or agency
siloes to specific aspects of change, inhibits
useful lesson-drawing and surfacing new ideas
across government. The exemplar projects
being run by the Digital Transformation Office
(DTO) aim to generate a wider cultural change,
and some discussions have begun around a
'Digital Academy' for the public service as a
whole. Does the APS need a unifying strategic
digital vision and a set of policies working to
achieve that vision?
3. "The dominant ways we do things around here"
remain as a key barrier to change - this is
reflected in: the tendency for government to
work like a machine when digital requires a
systems approach; the separation of the policy
elite from delivery leads to key expertise being
locked out of digital policy design; policy-
making is dominated by formal economists and
their policy values and there is little time for
new methods that question dominant
assumptions about how the world works; and,
there is insufficient understanding of what the
public values. How does the APS ensure that it
does not cut itself off from exchange with new
sources of knowledge and expertise in a digital
age?
Legislative barriers
1. There is a common perception that 'Tell us
once' (a joined up information management
system) is not possible within existing privacy
laws. A similar problem applies to procurement
laws and the capacity to use different digital
channels of communication and delivery.
However, others argue that the call for
legislation is "an excuse for inertia".
Is foundation legislative reform necessary to
enable deeper digital change or is there room
for manoeuvre within existing legislation to
make the change?
Resource barriers
1. Budget rules (e.g. persistence of annual budget
cycles) are a serious impediment to
establishing and maintaining the necessary
digital infrastructure for transformative
change. Investment in digital infrastructure
requires greater strategic thinking in alignment
with national innovation needs. Is a National
Innovation and Science Agenda plausible
without a National Digital Transformation
Initiative? Does the APS purely require more
flexible budget rules to ensure investment in
digital change or are these perceived barriers a
further excuse for inertia?
Capability barriers
1. Capability (alongside culture) is commonly
viewed to be the major barrier to digital change
both in the public sector and in Australia more
generally. The APS has a limited understanding
of its digital workforce capability and by
implication its present and future workforce
needs.
2. Is a digital workforce capability review needed?
3. The APS does not possess sufficient technology
leadership at the Executive level service-wide
to strategically manage and lead digital change.
Is technology leadership required at the
Executive level of all departments and agencies
to manage change? Should there be a
fundamental re-evaluation of the role of the
CIO?
4. Departments with major digital projects face
serious capability constraints in getting skilled
staff but agencies with modest IT effort report
few difficulties.
5. Are profound changes required at the tertiary
education and departmental graduate training
levels to ensure fit for purpose digital
capability? Has the need for STEM
postgraduate education reaching crisis
proportions?
6. Establishing mutually satisfactory technology
partnerships is a throttle to change.
Commonwealth government (with some high
profile exceptions) does not know how to work
‘Connected Government’ 27
collaboratively with digital industries (defined
in the broadest sense to also include creative
industries and other sources of collaboration
and innovation). How are technology
partnerships best established and maintained?
2.9 PARTING SHOTS – SEEING DIGITAL
It is evident that digital change is transforming
agencies with significant service delivery and data
analytic functions. Other smaller, non-technical
agencies have hardly been affected. We can
organise responses to digital change in the APS
around four main types – innovators, pragmatic
compliers, critical compliers and laggards.
Innovators are the earliest adopters, who display
leadership and enthusiasm for implementing
digital change. They tend to make mistakes
because they are chartering new territory in areas
where they often lack technical expertise.
Pragmatic compliers are the second wave of
adopters who emulate the innovators and do only
what they need to do. They are essentially
adaptive agencies that avoid confrontation with
both central coordinating authorities and agency
interests.
Critical compliers are late adopters who reshape
their digital policies and programs to fit their own
needs and preferences. The level of innovation in
these organisations can equal or even surpass the
efforts of the innovators. Indeed, delay is used as a
strategic device to gain comparative advantage.
Laggards exist outside the gaze of political
attention where there is little pressure to respond
to mainstream agendas. These are either highly
technical portfolios with low tech digital needs or
non-technical agencies with low tech policy or
regulatory needs. There are very few of these left.
As we have seen, the principle influences on the
response of different agencies to digital change is
determined by a combination of its function,
decision-making culture, capability and degree of
politicisation (i.e. relevance to the core
government agenda). Nonetheless, there is also
sufficient evidence to suggest that the essential
dynamic of change is such a powerful centrifugal
force that even the few laggards left will be unable
to resist. In a period of declining trust in
government at all levels digital change affords
government a unique historical opportunity to
reconnect with the citizen. Hence, as one
informant put it: ’The guiding principle of digital
change should be whether the level of trust that
citizens’ have in government increases as a
consequence’.
Despite its impressive ranking in global league
tables, there is still much to be done in the APS to
clearly articulate the purpose of digital change
and embed it in the hearts and minds of public
servants. Once the APS has a strategic digital
vision and a set of policies working to achieve that
vision, it then needs to look at itself. The
implementation of a strategic vision almost always
requires change: change in the activities and
behaviours of public servants and of the service as
a whole, including of budget allocations. If a
strategy is designed properly then it will be
possible to construct an understanding of
plausible potential futures, a desired vision of the
future, a set of outcomes that create public value,
organisational alignment and allocation of
resources throughout the delivery system to
support achievement of those outcomes, together
with accountability and feedback mechanisms to
measure attainment. In combination these can
provide ‘line of sight’: a way for leaders – both
political and bureaucratic – to see the links
between strategic aims and intent, policy
processes and delivery and achievement at the
front line – and a way for the front line and citizens
to see exactly the same things.
‘Connected Government’ 28
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‘Connected Government’ 29
APPENDIX 1: A LIST OF THE ORGANISATIONS INTERVIEWED
FOR THIS PROJECT
To ensure a broadly representative APS sample we developed a typology of departments/agencies that
exhibited the following characteristics:
1. Departments/agencies most likely to engage in disruptive digital transformation (agencies with digital by
default targets of 80% by 2017).
2. Departments/agencies least likely to engage in disruptive digital transformation by virtue of their
portfolio not requiring significant customer interaction or Big Data analytics.
3. Departments/agencies likely to require disruptive digital transformation by virtue of the technical nature
of their portfolio and the opportunities afforded by Big Data analytics.
4. And, Departments/agencies likely to have embedded norms and values due to longstanding history.
COMMONWEALTH DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES
Australian Public Service Commission
Attorney-General’s Department
Australian Bureau of Statistics
Australian Federal Police
Australian Research Council
Australian Taxation Office
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research
Organisation (CSIRO)
Defence Science and Technology Organisation
Department of Defence
Department of Education and Training
Department of Employment
Department of the Environment
Department of Finance
Department of Health
Department of Human Services
Department of Immigration and Border Protection
Department of Industry, Innovation and Science
Department of Social Services
Department of Veterans' Affairs
Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet
Digital Transformation Office
National Transport Commission
Treasury
STATES AND TERRITORIES
ACT CIO (former)
NSW Department Finance, Services and Innovation
NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet
NSW Education
NSW Health (e-Health)
NSW Treasury
DIGITAL CONSULTANTS
Bigpond
Conference Paper
Full-text available
A convention has persisted for some eight decades now of measuring government outputs in national statistics and economic accounts using inputs. This is equivalent to assuming that government productivity neither grows nor falls over time. However, modern solutions now exist for cost-weighting outputs so as to generate empirically useful metrics of total outputs at an organizational level. From this kind of information public sector leaders, managers, and stakeholders can learn key lessons about how the productivity path of their agency develops over time, and also compares with other agencies in the same policy field-either cross-nationally for central government bodies, or within the same country for decentralized agencies. Solutions also now exist for handling quality issues, and for going beyond individually delivered transactional, regulatory or delivery services to also tackle government productivity in agencies with complex outcomes. Improving productivity measurement at the organizational level offers the greatest immediate dividends and could successfully cover the largest departments and agencies at national or central government level across OECD countries. There is great scope too for looking at other large central departments cross-nationally, and for developing organizational-level productivity paths for large N decentralized agencies in fields like healthcare, education, policy, transport etc. Finally, national statistical agencies have made useful progress in estimating national government productivity at sectoral levels. This can contribute to the macroeconomic understanding of economic growth – although aggregate productivity data may not be helpful for improving government sector performance.
Article
Full-text available
Widespread use of the Internet and the Web has transformed the public management 'quasi-paradigm' in advanced industrial countries. The toolkit for public management reform has shifted away from a 'new public management' (NPM) approach stressing fragmentation, competition and incentivization and towards a 'digital-era governance' (DEG) one, focusing on reintegrating services, providing holistic services for citizens and implementing thoroughgoing digital changes in administration. We review the current status of NPM and DEG approaches, showing how the development of the social Web has already helped trigger a 'second wave' of DEG(2) changes. Web science and organizational studies are converging swiftly in public management and public services, opening up an extensive agenda for future redesign of state organization and interventions. So far, DEG changes have survived austerity pressures well, whereas key NPM elements have been rolled back.
Article
This book situates information technology at the centre of public policy and management. IT is now a vital part of any government organisation, opening new policy windows and enabling a vast range of tasks to be carried out faster and more efficiently. But it has also introduced new problems and challenges. Four in-depth case studies demonstrate how information systems have become inextricably linked with the core tasks of governmental organisations. The key government departments examined are: * the Inland Revenue Service and Social Security Administration in the US * the Inland Revenue and Benefits Agency in the UK.
Book
Productivity is essentially the ratio of an organization’s outputs divided by its inputs. For many years it was treated as always being static in government agencies. In fact productivity in government services should be rising rapidly as a result of digital changes and new management approaches, and it has done so in some agencies. However, Dunleavy and Carrera show for the first time how complex are the factors affecting productivity growth in government organizations – especially management practices, use of IT, organizational culture, strategic mis-decisions and political and policy churn. With government budgets under stress in many countries, this pioneering book shows academics, analysts and officials how to measure outputs and productivity in detail; how to cope with problems of quality variations; and how to achieve year-on-year, sustainable improvements in the efficiency of government services.
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The initial emergence of e-governance appeared to be part of a more general government modernization process with the major focus concerning the potential for service delivery online and saving resources. Governments in Australia (and internationally) quickly raced towards grand e-government strategies. However, subsequent implementation has proved more problematic. e-Government has also raised wider questions about government policy making, structures of decision making and the perennial question of joined-up government. Drawing on empirical material from a seven-nation study (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Japan, US, UK and The Netherlands), this article explores some of these themes in the Australian context and also seeks to place Australian initiatives in a comparative international context.‖
Article
In this monograph, we present a collection of papers from the ANZSOG conference on collaboration held in 2007. We have been able to draw on a range of perspectives – practitioner and scholarly – to offer a collection focused on the issue of collaborative governance in Australia. Our contributors consider the drivers, challenges, prospects and promises of collaboration, from a conceptual and a practical perspective. We believe this provides a rich resource for readers who are interested in the issue of collaboration in the public sector, and more specifically in public policy.Throughout the monograph, our contributors draw on their personal experience, their research and their visions for change to offer important insights into the potential of collaboration and the fiercely stubborn impediments to this ideal. You will note that there are differences of opinion, which, of course, are to be expected; we hope they will help in feeding the continuing debate about collaborative governance.We have organised the monograph in four key sections. In the first, ‘Setting the scene’, there are six chapters, which provide an introduction for readers to a range of issues including the dimensions and drivers of collaboration, why governments are interested in collaboration, the Australian experience, the notions of collaborative advantage and collaborative inertia, what is meant by success in collaboration and the role of the community sector in collaborative governance.In the second part, ‘The reality of collaboration’, we draw on the experience and research of experts to consider success, failure, challenges and questions that arise from attempts at collaboration. In the eight chapters in this section, a range of examples is provided by the authors and many point to traps and lessons that will be of considerable interest and value to readers.In the third part, ‘Collaboration abroad’, there are two chapters that provide an international perspective. Drawing on experience and research in the United Kingdom and British Columbia, in Canada, the authors in this section give us a window into developments in other parts of the world, offering promise and words of warning.In the final part, ‘Collaboration: rhetoric and reality’, the concluding chapter of the monograph seeks to examine the reality of collaboration in public policy. In this chapter, the author questions whether there is much evidence of true collaboration, raising the possibility that all the collaborative talk has yet to translate into much collaborative action.Together, these sections offer readers the opportunity to consider collaborative governance in public policy from a range of perspectives, and to engage in the current debate about the value of collaboration.One of the most important changes since the conference is, of course, the change of government and, along with many of our readers, we are keen to observe what will happen under the leadership of the new Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd. There is certainly a lot of talk, especially about intergovernmental collaboration, but will the Rudd Government be able to ‘walk-the-walk’? Only time will tell.We thank all of our contributors for their efforts in preparing their chapters for the monograph, in particular Peter Shergold, who was prepared to write a postscript after his move from the public service to academia. We especially thank John Butcher who, as usual, works tirelessly to ensure that the ANZSOG monographs are of the highest possible quality.
Article
This overview paper has two aims. The first is to indicate that technological change has been a somewhat neglected, or at the least esoteric, topic within the academic field of public administration. The second is to argue that this neglect is damaging for the PA community, because technological change is actually fundamental to developments in public administration, in a variety of ways. In order to demonstrate these two points, a wide range of literature is called upon, across many sectors. In conclusion a framework is offered to encourage the kinds of analysis of technological change that should ensure strong links with the central concerns of public administration scholarship.
Article
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e-Government Leadership: Engaging the Customer. The Government Executive Series
  • Accenture
Accenture. 2003. e-Government Leadership: Engaging the Customer. The Government Executive Series. London: Accenture.
Innovation in the Public Sector: Enabling Better Performance and Driving New Directions. Canberra: ANAO. Available online at
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