Which is Australia’s most digital-ready government?


Government ICT knowledge hub, Intermedium, has released its 2019 Digital Government Readiness Report, with NSW securing top spot for the fifth consecutive time.

The report assesses the progress of digital transformation rollouts across state and Federal governments, measuring progress in whole-of-government policy as well as legislative action and procedural processes.

NSW earned 9.4 out of 10 on the report’s Digital Government Readiness Indicator (DGRI), nearly a full point ahead of its closest challengers, the Victorian and Federal governments. The Premier State also received standout recognition for its ICT governance and service delivery, noting the success of the government’s citizen-service portal, Service NSW, launched in 2013.

The DGRI measures six key variables of government ICT activity: strategy, policy and governance, as well as digital service delivery, procurement policy and cross-jurisdictional cooperation.

Intermedium Principal Analyst, Judy Hurditch, said the ratings were determined largely on the political will of leaders to drive transformation, not only supporting and enabling agencies’ digital transformation activities but also removing any impediments.

“Ultimately, it comes down to how ICT-savvy its government is at a political level, and therefore how much its politicians individually and collectively can envision and understand what a digitally transformed government might look like.”

NSWs’ enviable score was attributed to the willingness of recent leaders to embrace digital transformation “starting with Barry O’Farrell at the change of government in 2014 and continued with Andrew Constance and Dominic Perrottet,” the report said.

This commitment has also been bolstered by “solid funding”, according to Hurditch.

The report estimated a direct spent of at least $2 billion on Service NSW and its attendant digitally transformed services, while the government’s indirect spend (for example, as Intermedium notes, the conversion of Roads and Maritime shopfronts to Service NSW shopfronts) remained “impossible to quantify but also likely to be extremely high.”

Service NSW has proved an unqualified success for the government, with NSW Minister for Finance, Services and Property Victor Dominello, suggesting it would bring the citizen-centric delivery model even closer to the centre of government if re-elected this year.

Hot on the tails of NSW, the Federal (8.6), Victorian (8.6), and Queensland (8.5) governments were acknowledged as “extremely close to being declared ‘digital government ready’.

Whilst South Australia (7.8) and the ACT (7.5) remained within sight of the frontrunners, Western Australia (6.8), the Northern Territory (6.3) and Tasmania (5.5) were noticeably lagging. For Hurditch, this transformation lag will have a very real impact on the quality and cost of government services.

“This the point where their citizens will suffer second-rate services and their cost of government administration will be significantly higher than the jurisdictions which have scored higher on the indicator,” she said.

Despite the prominence of frontend services, Hurditch said it was governments’ redoubled focus on backend transformation that was the true catalyst for service delivery and efficiency gains.

“[These governments recognised] that it is hard for their employees to imagine improved citizen services if they are held back with manual processes and antiquated IT systems,” she said.

Transformation of the backend office environments also opens up the opportunities to implement newer – and potentially transformative – service innovations, she added.

“While back office transformation has been the holy grail for years, we are into a whole new ballgame with the increasing take-up and enthusiasm for analytics in all its guises – avatars, chatbots, robotic process automation, machine learning.”