Geelong’s two public worlds in digital change race

IPAA Victoria’s Digital Delivery conference in Geelong exposed the two players in the public sector digital change race: the worriers and those who are making it up as they go. It’s an exciting time, writes Tom Burton.

I found myself in two worlds last Friday at the IPAA Victoria Digital Delivery conference in Geelong. One world was a panel of researchers and seasoned observers concluding Australia was middling when it comes to public sector uptake of digital and everything that goes with it. The other was a group of agency leads and digital executives exploring in great depth and nuance the rollout of the digital phenomena in their space — and everything that went with it.

Two years ago such conferences would have been preoccupied with who approved the tweets, and how to comply with the requirement to archive Facebook posts. In Geelong the discussion was about anticipating the first driverless cars in 2017, and if Uber’s rideshare recommendation system meant the need to licence was redundant.

There was palpable energy in the room to want to get on with the big job of delivering digital change at scale. From Australia Post to the taxi commissioner, we heard sophisticated stories of digital transformation — migrating whole agencies into the unpredictable world of digital delivery and technology intelligence.

Dr Claire Noone, former executive director Consumer Affairs Victoria and now a principal at the Nous Group, queried if the emergence of data-designed services meant the functional structures of government needed to be challenged. In her mind the traditional separation of policy and regulation and service delivery was questionable in an age where data and citizen feedback was now so readily able to inform government decisions.

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