The Digital Transformation Agency’s blossoming relationship with the Australian Information Industry Association has borne fruit for the lobby group with the signing of a memorandum of understanding.
The DTA has agreed to keep AIIA members in the loop and work more closely with them, primarily on ICT procurement reforms, digital identity and the public service capability-building program focused on leadership of digital projects.
It has promised to promote the AIIA’s events and activities, especially its annual iAwards and major conferences, and publicly acknowledge the representative body’s role as the DTA’s main channel for industry consultation more often. The DTA will also try to provide more speakers for AIIA seminars and events.
The MoU document outlines a shared vision of better digital public services, “a network for collaboration and inspiration”, as well as growth in the tech sector, with more opportunities for start-ups and small-to-medium enterprises to snatch a slice of the Commonwealth procurement pie.
It sets out a range of projects the two organisations are going to work on together, plotted on a rough timeline, with “measures of success” subject to review by both parties. Both sides agree they should show mutual respect:
“Communication between parties is timely, respectful, frank and constructive and undertaken in the spirit of achieving positive outcomes in the design and delivery of exemplary digital government services.”
“The information and technology industry has much to offer government and by engaging early in the design and development of programs, we have an opportunity to build in industry best practice, encourage innovation and make it easier to do business with government,” DTA chief executive Gavin Slater said in a statement.
Slater flagged his intent to sign a formal MoU with the AIIA last August in his first speech, which was also hosted by the peak body. He observed at the time that collaboration between federal agencies and ICT companies had become inevitable in a digital world, so those relationships should be as effective as possible.
“If it fails, great; we’ve learned something,” he said.
While the AIIA has a long list of members, including both locally owned and major international ICT companies that operate in Australia, it cannot quite be said to represent the entire ICT industry.
For a government agency, engaging with ICT companies and the people who work for them is not as simple as reaching out to a catch-all professional institute like those which represent GPs or engineers, for example. The MoU clearly adds value to AIIA membership, so it’s a win for the group’s members, but outsiders and observers might also question how much the DTA has agreed to do for them.
Other agreements are “to involve AIIA early in industry consultations on the Trusted Digital Identity Framework” and keep it posted about any updates to its Digital Transformation Roadmap and its work on changing ICT procurement.
In the longer term, the DTA has agreed to work with the group on “skills uplift such as industry placements, exchanges etc” and potentially an expert-in-residence program where the agency would host an AIIA member.
The DTA has committed to a minimum of four annual meetings with members and staff of the AIIA and the CEOs of the organisations will also meet at least twice a year.
The two groups will hold at least three annual round-tables on ICT-specific procurement reform, and attempts to resolve issues that companies have with existing government processes, such as the IRAP program for cyber security assessments and the certified cloud services list.
About a third of all spending on technology in Australia is public money, according to AIIA chief Rob Fitzpatrick.
“Australians collectively benefit from a government that works closely with the technology industry — large and small, domestic and global — to demonstrate how departments and agencies can maximise efficiencies and provide more compelling citizen services,” he said in a press release.
AIIA chairman John Paitaridis described the MoU as a “bold agenda” and echoed Slater’s point that working with ICT companies had become a necessity for public sector agencies.
“Government and industry must collaborate to build our digital future — there is no other way,” he said.
Top image, L-R: Gavin Slater and Rob Fitzpatrick.