Taylor unwinds tech tender traps, flags digital government by consent

By Julian Bajkowski

Thursday November 24, 2016

Everyday digital interactions between government agencies and citizens will be device agnostic, highly personalised and based on an “entirely consent driven process” Assistant Minister for Digital Transformation, Angus Taylor, has said, as the Turnbull government sets about recalibrating its digital identity and wider technology procurement plans.

In a speech to industry in Canberra on Thursday, Taylor set out expectations for agencies and their incumbent and prospective suppliers following the creation of the Digital Transformation Agency, which will now largely lead technology procurement and delivery strategy ahead of a what is anticipated to be the biggest shake-up of Canberra’s $5.6 billion annual spend on equipment, software and services.

While a 10% target of the $5.6 billion spend has remained as a headline target for “innovation” spend, the biggest shift for agencies will come in the form of more liberalised and far less prescriptive purchasing rules that date back to the era of whole of government outsourcing of the 1990s — a policy outcome now regarded as suboptimal by both sides of politics and the bureaucracy.

One of the biggest shifts flagged by Taylor is a shift away from the present system of agencies needing to specify requirements to industry and allowing providers to nominate off-the-shelf solutions without a formal approach to market from agencies.

“It will have the ability to manage unsolicited proposals,” Taylor said of the new technology purchasing landscape the government envisages.

“It will have a process where the formulation of strategic tenders is linked to investment,” he said.

The direct referencing of larger “strategic” purchases being linked to local investment is a firm signal that the Turnbull government intends to use the Commonwealth’s significant purchasing power to stimulate activity in the local technology sector by getting bigger companies to give smaller domestic players a slice of the action.

Limited ability by many agencies to entertain industry proposals that do readily fit into compartmentalised procurement regimes has over the last decade become regarded as significant handbrake on cost reduction and modernisation and a significant contributor to public perceptions that government online services lag behind those of industry, particularly banking, travel and retailing.

“The current system requires you to engage with government, you to navigate government and you to know what government expects,” Taylor said.

“This will not be the case in the future – we like all our competitors will come to you with a tailored package.”

Taylor said it was his goal that “tax, government payments, lodgments, details and information” will be delivered to citizens “in a personal and targeted manner.”

“The government will allow the user to engage, with services, in a precise and transparent system — which of course starts with the consent to use it.”

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