Australia’s top 4 on the global stage of digital government influencers

By Harley Dennett

Thursday August 9, 2018

Australia is a frequent destination for those global headliners evangelising for more digitally-savvy government — maybe it’s for a change of climate, or our infectious eagerness, or maybe we just run fantastic conferences. But we also have plenty of our own homegrown digi-gov influences.

Apolitical, a global network for public sector types, and a friend of The Mandarin, has produced a world leaderboard of 100 individuals who are influential in digital government — including four Australians.

The top 20 includes none other than our own top dog, the PM. Malcolm Turnbull makes the list because of his role as political champion for a digital transformation agenda in government, including creating the Digital Transformation Office.

Pia Waugh. Image: Gavin Tapp

Also in the top 20 is the globally well-respected Pia Andrews — who has held roles in Finance, Prime Minister and Cabinet and the DTO before leaving our shores for New Zealand, where she is now the service integration lead at the Department of Internal Affairs. The catch-cry that earned her a prominent place in the list is for popularising ‘government as an API’.

Randall Brugeaud made the list for being an influencer in national government as the newly appointed head of the Digital Transformation Agency (which succeeded the DTO brand following a significant shift in its remit).

“What makes this list particularly interesting for us, is how many names on it are familiar because Australians make the conscious choice to seek them out to inspire.”

Brugeaud was most recently the COO at the Australian Bureau of Statistics, and before that CIO of the Immigration portfolio.

The final Australian on the list is another federal politician — Michael Keenan — who, in addition to holding the mammoth portfolio of Human Services, has also taken on the lead ministerial role for digital transformation.

What makes this list particularly interesting for us, is how many names on it are familiar because Australians make the conscious choice to seek them out to inspire and, in some cases, forewarn about the opportunities and risks of digital government.

Taavi Kotka, the former CIO of Estonia, for example, made a splash in Australia with comments about privacy in a digital age for government, and also providing European lessons to the Department of Communications.

Beth Noveck, another of the top 20 and former techie of the Obama White House before founding GovLab, was recently a guest of ANZSOG and the government’s Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

Noveck advocated for more open data from government as the antidote to the distrust it faces, but also recognised that corporations now hold the data that will be most useful to making policy decisions in the future: nearly everyone carries around a phone in their pocket which is far cheaper and faster than conducting a national census every five years.

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