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What the new Australian Digital Council discussed

The new Australian Digital Council confirmed the first priorities for data sharing between state, territory and federal agencies are digital identity projects and longitudinal research on children who have spent time in foster care.

Ministers representing all eight Australian governments agreed to those two priorities for cross-jurisdictional collaboration in the era of digital service delivery and data-driven policy, according to a communique published a few hours after Friday’s inaugural meeting.

“Ministers noted the importance of community trust as we move to more digital environments and agreed to embed community engagement in to these processes,” the communique states.

They also agreed “there is urgent need to improve collaboration between jurisdictions” and plenty of opportunities to start doing so right away, so they established a new “senior officials group” to get on with it. It sounds like a big job.

The public servants have been asked to start by analysing “all the projects being progressed in each jurisdiction, including timeframes” and “scoping a project to improve data sharing on people with disability” before the next meeting, which is within three months.

“Coordination between jurisdictions on the delivery of digital identity opportunities” is also on the working group’s to-do list, just above “examine how a national data system can be realised” – a task that starts with describing the current barriers to cross-jurisdictional data sharing and how states and territories might adopt the Commonwealth’s upcoming data sharing legislation.

That’s not all. The group of senior officials will think about how different governments might join forces on developing “secure building management systems and building record management systems” and “business simplification” projects as well.

Digital Council delegates also asked their government’s senior officials to consider the potential for cross-border collaboration towards joined-up government — re-orienting public services so they are based around life events like births, deaths and marriages, rather than which agency delivers them.

This part of the agenda is likely to draw some inspiration from New Zealand’s service integration efforts, led by Pia Andrews at the Department of Internal Affairs. Andrews has already flagged her intention build trans-Tasman ties in a new role as executive director of digital government at the New South Wales Department of Finance, Services and Innovation, which she takes up next week.

Let’s go around the table

Along with all of that, the new council’s first meeting was a chance for ministers to discuss “the need to address the digital divide” and learn about what each other is already doing in the digital government space.

Chairing the proceedings, federal Minister for Digital Transformation Michael Keenan talked about the aims of the data sharing and release legislation that is in the works — to “provide a simpler, more efficient framework to govern data, removing red tape that inhibits research and growth while increasing data security and privacy” — and gave an update on the Digital Transformation Agency’s digital identity system.

NSW Minister for Finance, Services and Property Victor Dominello:

“… presented NSW Government’s work on the Digital NSW Accelerator, which assists in rapid development of innovative digital government service solutions, and the NSW Customer Experience Pipeline, which supports the use of common, reusable components to improve customer experiences with NSW government services.”

Ryan Batchelor, executive director of public service reform at the Victorian Department of Premier and Cabinet, on behalf of Special Minister of State Gavin Jennings:

“… provided an update on Victoria’s data sharing legislation, new initiatives to improve digital and analytics capability within government, investments in data linkage to inform cross portfolio social policy, Victoria’s API gateway and the delivery of identity verification services through Service Victoria, its online channel for government transactions.”

Queensland’s Mick De Brenni, wearing his Minister for Digital Transformation hat:

“… outlined Queensland’s commitment to more responsive digital services by removing agency boundaries and empowering Queenslanders, including through adopting emergent data technologies.”

Dave Kelly, in his capacity as Western Australia’s Minister for Innovation and ICT:

“… gave an overview of the digital reform agenda in Western Australia including the progression of Data Sharing and Privacy legislation, and examples of data sharing in the social policy portfolio.”

On behalf of the South Australian government, Minister for Industry and Skills David Pisoni:

“… outlined South Australia’s data integration initiatives aimed at improving the circumstances of vulnerable children and their families and spoke about South Australia’s progress towards an integrated service platform to streamline services for businesses and citizens.”

The Tasmanian delegate, Minister for Science and Technology Michael Ferguson:

“… outlined Tasmania’s vision to transform Government services and build capability, by enhancing cyber security and better leveraging data, harnessing new technologies and providing a single digital account that enables easy access to government services.”

Mick Gentleman, a long-serving ACT Minister currently handling 12 separate portfolios:

“… presented the Australian Capital Territory’s digital transformation agenda and its drive to make better use of data, to inform policy and deliver better services for the community, with family safety being a key priority.”

And Lauren Moss, the Minister for Corporate and Information Services in the Northern Territory:

“… outlined the Northern Territory’s digital and data priorities including the pending launch of the Northern Territory’s Digital Territory Strategy, its digital transformational program including the release of the Digital Service Standard and its open data and data sharing initiatives.”

“These discussions provided an opportunity for Ministers to share their insights and experiences, and identify best practices across jurisdictions and the benefits of pursuing cross-jurisdictional projects,” the communique states.

Top image, L-R: Dave Kelly, Victor Dominello, Scott Morrison, Michael Keenan, David Pisoni.

Author Bio

Stephen Easton

Stephen Easton is the associate editor at The Mandarin based in Canberra. He's previously reported for Canberra CityNews and worked on industry titles for The Intermedia Group.