By breaking down silos and leveraging the collaborative strengths of the local government sector, we have the potential to unlock far greater capabilities, learn from one another, and create a unified view with people at the centre.
Local governments may not necessarily have the resource heft or billion-dollar budgets to innovate at the speed of higher tier governments, but in pooling their collective technology strengths, councils can unlock significant value and capabilities from their IT systems.
Following a successful move to consolidate IT support systems between three Adelaide councils, we speak with Karin Swiatnik, LGITSA President, City of Charles Sturt, on the benefits of leveraging the collaborative strengths of councils to boost overall tech resilience, help desk capabilities and employee experience, how councils can better manage escalating cyber threats, and on boosting the digital innovation potential within local government.
FST Government: What does a successful digital transformation look like to you in the context of local government? Is wholesale digitalisation possible or even desirable?
Swiatnik: Consumer expectations of effortless interactions and positive experiences are not limited to private enterprise. They equally apply to the public sector.
Introducing new technologies can be a powerful lever for driving change to business processes and culture, creating efficiencies and improving service delivery and customer experience.
Outdated technologies can no longer be an excuse for ‘doing things the way we’ve always done them’.
FST Government: Local Governments may not necessarily have the resource heft to support the ambitious digital transformation programs often attempted by state or federal governments.
What are Adelaide councils doing to overcome the these constraints to deliver successful digitalised front- and back-ends, and ultimately better citizen services?
Swiatnik: By breaking down silos and leveraging the collaborative strengths of the local government sector, we have the potential to unlock far greater capabilities, learn from one another, and create a unified view with people at the centre.
A recent project between the Cities of Charles Sturt (CCS), Marion (COM) and Port Adelaide Enfield (PAE) is a good example of how councils can collaborate with one another. Together, we implemented Freshservice, a leading service desk software, which has enabled us to streamline internal operations and deliver an engaging and award-winning employee experience.
Collaborating has helped us build a very strong network with each other, allowing us to share knowledge and skill sets across the councils.
FST Government: What are some of the major digital infrastructure challenges facing Australia’s local governments today?
Swiatnik: Local government IT professionals face a range of challenges, including legacy systems, technical debt, and vulnerability to cybersecurity attacks – all in an environment of constrained budgets and resources.
However, a key strength of the sector is its collaborative culture and the passion of its people to make a positive difference to our communities. Tapping into these strengths is helping us respond to these challenges together.
FST Government: You’ve moved to consolidate and share IT service desk resources between three councils in Adelaide (the Cities of Charles Sturt (CCS), Marion (COM), and Port Adelaide Enfield (PAE).
What was the motivation behind this arrangement, and what benefits have you realised from this collaboration?
Swiatnik: In 2018, a collaborative partnership was formed between the Cities of Charles Sturt (CCS), Marion (COM) and Port Adelaide Enfield (PAE), with the shared goal of greater serving our communities. To enable collaboration and knowledge-sharing across business functions, the vision is to align our IT infrastructure and applications, project by project.
One of the key opportunities for alignment was the service desk, which is the main point of contact for IT-related requests. However, the set-up across each of the councils was very different and made effective collaboration and cross-team communication a challenge. For starters, each of us had our own service desk solutions, so information from one couldn’t easily be shared with the other. On top of this, ageing legacy software provided a further challenge.
To tackle these problems, we replaced our IT service desk solutions with Freshservice, a product of Freshworks, helping to streamline internal operations and deliver a strong employee experience. By tapping into the Freshservice service catalogue, we saw a reduction in IT requests, which translated into a 10 per cent decrease in phone calls, because employees were able to easily find a resolution without having to contact the team. In total, more than 1,500 IT assets have been migrated – results that have changed the way we work and manage our IT assets.
The collaboration between the councils has helped build a strong local network. The benefits seen aren’t just in the dollar value of savings, but also in the sharing of knowledge and skill sets, helping to create stronger communities across the board.
FST Government: Are you looking to extend this local govt consolidation or resource-sharing arrangement to other ICT functions (for example, cloud partnerships, data sharing, analytics, AI/automation tech)?
Swiatnik: After the success of the project, we’ve shared learnings on the benefits of fostering cross-council relationships with other South Australian councils.
We’ve also started exploring opportunities for sharing capacity and expertise in relation to other ICT functions such as data & analytics and Geographic Information System (GIS).
FST Government: Recent audits of local governments – and most recently in NSW (with more than a third of local councils across the state still without basic internal controls and governance arrangements for cybersecurity) – have found substandard adherence to mandated cyber controls. One cyber attack resulted in a Melbourne council suffering weeks of systems outages post-breach.
What is the LGITSA doing to boost cyber resilience and ensure adherence to Essential Eight/Cyber Security Policy mandates?
Swiatnik: Local Government Information Technology SA Incorporated (LGITSA) embodies leadership and advocacy on behalf of information technology and information management professionals working within the Local Government sector of South Australia.
LGITSA has engaged IT professionals across the sector to prepare a Cyber Security Strategy, which strives to take a truly coordinated and collaborative approach to sharing resources and establishing practices to increase cyber maturity and resilience across the local government sector.
A key initiative of the Strategy has recently kicked off, with a project to create a local government cybersecurity framework, develop baseline control expectations (incorporating the Essential Eight and other fundamental security controls) and provide templates and supporting guidelines. This project has been assisted by the Local Government Research & Development Scheme administered by the Local Government Association of South Australia.
FST Government: What one current or emerging digital innovation stands out for you as a major game-changer for local governments to enhance its services? How are you looking to leverage this technology?
Swiatnik: Public cloud services provide the opportunity to scale infrastructure and support a culture of risk taking and innovation.
Last year, the City of Charles Sturt migrated the bulk of its infrastructure to the public cloud, as an interim step to migrating legacy applications to Software-as-a-Service.
This has given us the foundations, capabilities and flexibility to explore and leverage the broad range of solutions offered within public cloud. ◼