Australia behind on digital transformation

By David Donaldson

October 27, 2015

Despite progress in building expertise such as the Digital Transformation Office, confidence in government digital transformation among Australian public servants is lagging behind both the Australian private sector and the governments of other countries, new research reveals.

Only 27% of Australian government workers surveyed are confident in their organisation’s readiness to respond to digital trends, compared to 36% of 1202 global respondents, according to a new report from Deloitte’s Public Sector Research group, The Journey to Government’s Digital Transformation.

Government continues to lag the private sector, too — 80% in Australia say their digital capabilities are behind the private sector, while the global figure, at 70%, is not much better.

Among the 204 Australian respondents — who come from both state and federal governments — 43% say that their leaders understand digital trends and technologies, while only 34% say public sector heads have sufficient skills to lead the organisation’s digital strategy.

Deloitte Australia national public sector and healthcare leader Fran Thorn thinks Australia is progressing well, but more remains to be done.

“Interacting with our governments, at federal, state and local levels, should be easy, and certainly as easy doing the same with private sector organisations,” she says.

“Australia’s public sector has actually been fairly good at moving to digitise many customer transactions, and our governments have come a long way in terms of their commitment to digital transformation. The federal government has certainly demonstrated it is serious about digital, with the recent establishment of its national Digital Transformation Office.

“But there is also a very compelling argument for more to be done in terms of driving the development and uptake of digital, both in terms of improved access to services and the provision of services at lower cost.”

Australians were more likely to say their organisation was not digitally mature. Asked whether it was early, developing or maturing, only 8% answered the ‘maturing’, compared to 13% of global respondents.

The survey showed that Australians were less likely to agree that there was a clear and coherent digital strategy, with only 35% answering in the affirmative, against 46% globally.

Skills and procurement present some difficulty. 84% of Australian respondents said they found workforce and skills to be a challenging area to manage in their organisation’s transition to digital, while 73% find procurement to be a challenging area to manage during the transition.

But bureaucrats nonetheless appear hopeful about the future: 80% say digital technologies and capabilities enable employees to work better with customers, while 74% answered that improving citizen experience and transparency is an objective of their digital strategy.

Thorn says that to accelerate digital transformation, public sector leaders should focus on five major areas.

“Having a clear coherent digital strategy, being user-centric, having a strong digital-first culture and the right tech-savvy workforce skills as well as the right approach to procurement and supplier relationships will all be important if we are to continue to mature,” she argues.

The survey was carried out across more than 70 countries, with half of the 1202 respondents coming from the United States, United Kingdom and Australia and included heads of departments, agencies, CIOs, CTOs, and CFOs across domains at all levels of government.

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