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Open call for innovation ideas in NSW

Short-term pain and fresh thinking may lead to some significant public sector structural reforms in NSW as a result of yesterday’s open call by Premier Mike Baird for community and private sector reform ideas.

Outsourcing is in right now, and its new name is Open Ideas. The federal Department of Human Services are going through it, the ABC is about to do it, and now so will every service delivery agency and department in NSW. Anyone with an outsourcing proposal can register with NSW eTendering to reform or take over an element of the government’s services as part of the Innovation Initiative.

The NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet will be the gatekeeper at this first “market sounding” phase, taking advice from the NSW Treasury and some of the major service delivery agencies: the Department of Family and Community Services, Office of Finance and Services, and Transport for New South Wales. A probity adviser will ensure that the commercial dealings are conducted with integrity.

“Currently, government services are delivered by public sector employees, through competitive tendering and via unsolicited proposals,” Baird said at the announcement. “The Innovation Initiative will provide a fourth channel through which we can uncover some of the exciting ideas and technology out there.”

Two other priority areas for the government’s ideas call are reducing Sydney’s traffic congestion and improvements to the way social housing and its assets are run.

Almost 70% of Sydneysiders’ 16 million weekday trips are during peak periods. Road capacity projects and alternative roads are a partial solution, but the unpredictability of congestion, breakdowns and illegally parked vehicles has the government looking for another solution. An international example the government liked was Log Angeles’ automated information system that tells drivers about diverts and alternative routes.

For its social housing assets, the government wants to increase the size of the portfolio, while also improving economic and social outcomes for residents. The scope may change as tenders come in, but for the time being, it’s looking for proposals “related to regional and rural communities, new financing models to support the development of social housing or tailored solutions that provide support for individuals outside the social housing portfolio.”

The final plank of the initiative is something the public sector will begin working on straight away: fast-tracking the release of government datasets as part of its Open Data commitment.

The government cited successes with Transport’s release of datasets, up to 40 million requests each month, and apps4NSW competitions using public data to produce the TripView traffic updates app and the Fires Near Me alert app. Other portfolio areas will fast track releases via the Open Data portal data.nsw.gov.au.

The government see the Open Data approach helping to improve transparency and accountability, support evidence-based policy and provide a platform for innovation.

“The NSW Government Open Data Policy and implementation plan sets out best practice principles for agencies to prioritise the public release of data. The policy requires agencies to work with stakeholders to seek feedback on priority data sets. This approach was developed in collaboration with industry and sets out actions to prioritise high-value data and operational datasets for public release.”

Expressions of interest will open from September.

Author Bio

Harley Dennett

Harley Dennett is editor at The Mandarin based in Canberra. He's held communications roles in the New South Wales public sector and Defence, and been a staff reporter for newspapers in Sydney and Washington DC.