WA rethinks online services with digital strategy and portal

By David Donaldson

May 27, 2016

Digital WA ICT strategy

Western Australia will work to ensure three-quarters of all government information and financial transactions will be online by 2020, as part of its inaugural government digital strategy.

The cash-stricken state also plans to cut the cost of its ICT services by 10% over the next four years, at the same time as bolstering the digital maturity of government agencies and implementing a single, whole-of-government digital services portal.

Under the 2016-2020 ICT strategy, released Wednesday, the government reveals it will ensure at least 90% of the ICT components of major projects are completed on time and within budget by 2020.

There is plenty of room to improve how the public sector does digital. “With more than one hundred agencies that operate largely in isolation, there is a real need for a change that will minimise infrastructure duplication, costly technology implementations and delays in meeting community needs,” the strategy reads.

Cutting the cost of ICT by 10% would be a decent saving — WA government spends $1-2 billion on ICT annually, including staffing and other internal costs. Spending on this scale is “unsustainable” in the current fiscal environment, says the government, as the end of the mining boom is expected to push the state’s deficit for the current financial year to around $4 billion.

Minister for Innovation Bill Marmion says smart ICT strategy will help reduce red tape and expenditure.

“Changing how we procure and implement technology effectively should not only reduce the current cost, but also free up funds to reinvest in new infrastructure and community services,” he states.

Digitising services will make government more convenient for citizens, while opening up data will create opportunities for entrepreneurs. “From simply paying bills online to obtaining the latest information and data on everything government that matters to you, that is the Digital WA promise once fully implemented,” says Marmion.

“Digital WA will also help entrepreneurs and start-up companies flourish, as they use government open data sources to produce new products and services to meet the evolving needs of the community.”

Interoperable systems and cloud services

WA government chief information officer Giles Nunis — whose job was established a year ago before being given the task of developing an ICT strategy — says the public sector “needs to develop and mature the capabilities required to turn government into digital government”:

Government services will increasingly become digital, delivered online and conveniently accessible through a single whole of government portal. Interoperable systems and networks will allow seamless connectivity and service delivery between agencies. High quality data from across the entire public sector will drive analytics for government decision making, and result in more and more open data being provided to the community. Effective use of cloud and other pay-as-you-go options will allow government to move away from owning and maintaining expensive ICT assets, and instead reinvest in improving service delivery to the community.

The strategy includes seven key performance indicators, described by Minister Bill Marmion as “ambitious”, as targets for 2020:

  • >90% of the ICT components of major projects are completed on time and within budget.
  • >90% of government digital services meet or exceed agreed and published service levels.
  • >90% of agency chief executives are confident in the quality of their ICT governance to inform good decisions.
  • >75% of financial and information service transactions with the public are done through digital channels.
  • >10% overall reduction in the annual cost of delivering current (2016-17) ICT services by the end of the strategy.
  • >90% of ICT reinvestment plans deliver the targeted return on investment.
  • >90% of agencies reach maturity level 3 or higher in all strategic core capabilities.

It builds in a “solid layer of governance” to ensure the strategy is successfully implemented. There will be regular reporting of progress and performance to cabinet, strategic oversight and direction provided by the Directors’ General ICT Council, as well as program and project oversight and direction provided by senior business and ICT executives from across the public sector.

In November last year, the government launched the GovNext-ICT initiative to improve how agencies pay for and use technology across the public sector.

“GovNext-ICT helps agencies to migrate into the cloud, reduces the cost of running and maintaining systems, and connects all agencies into a single Government-wide network, enabling synergies to be realised that were previously impossible,” said the minister.

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