South Australia sets the pace of digital reforms

Citizens are seeking a direct say in the co-design of digital government services, according to Sinéad O'Brien, a key digital lead with the peak South Australian Department of Premier and Cabinet. 

In the digital space, citizens are seeking a direct say in the co-design of government services, according to Sinéad O'Brien, executive director, Office for Customer, ICT and Digital Transformation, Department of Premier and Cabinet.  

O'Brien was a keynote speaker at the inaugural FST Government South Australia conference held 30th March in Adelaide. She said the administration would release a report involving the future of digital services. This report incorporated grass-roots feedback around the future of services.

“One of the things that surprised me was that 30 per cent of people interviewed for this report – and there well over 10,000 engaged – said they wanted to be involved in the co-design.

“Citizens don’t want to have things done to them anymore. They want to be part of that digital government co-design.”

Once the foundations are bedded down, the goal is to take the outreach to the next level. “The South Australian ICT transformation program is part of my portfolio. We’re trying to see the commodities in a different perspective.”

Rather than owning and managing a service, the aim was to buy a service from an external provider. This could be scaled up or down in an agile way. “We signed a multi-million contract with DCX Technology (formerly CSC) at the start of 2017. This was for end-user computing.

“That means in government, we don’t want to own our desktops, but we didn’t say we wanted to lease desktops. We described the outcome and the experience that we wanted. We were clear about the experience and output, rather than just leasing a host of desktops.”

In five years, the ICT roadmap would look fundamentally different. “But we don’t have the responsibility of trying to get there. We take this journey with our business partner.”

The DXC Technology contract firstly involved rolling out services for the Department of Health and Department of Premier and Cabinet. “We’re going first, and we will start to see that rolled out in the next few months during July-August 2017.”

One challenge was to share cross-agency information, without simply drowning in the data. Last year, South Australia launched its public data-sharing program. This had enabled agencies to step outside silos, and engage more readily in information exchange.

“Consumers interact with many different agencies,” noted O’Brien. “How do we really improve their experience and their service? We can do that if we better understand how they engage with agencies. It’s not about doing some weird and amazing things with sci-fi technology. This is about using technology to be a better government.”

However, the challenge was to share cross-agency information, without simply drowning in the data. Last year, South Australia launched its public data sharing program. This enabled agencies to step outside silos, and engage more readily in data-sharing programs.

The broader goal was to engage the industry and citizens in problem-solving. “Let’s not delude ourselves that we know best in government. Our intellectual power is enhanced by engaging with industry, as well as co-design and problem solving with industry, and the consumer.”

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