Keynote address to the Australian Financial Review Government Summit
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I thank the Australian Financial Review and Deloitte for hosting this inaugural Government Summit, and I acknowledge my ministerial colleagues from the states and territories and Australian Public Service leaders who will also be speaking today.
Efficient, value for money, cutting edge technology, driving outcomes for people and the nation.
These words all together in the same sentence would send shivers down the spine of any ordinary Australian – let alone any AFR journo!
Government, especially the federal government, delivers an enormous amount for Australians, but a lot of it is under the hood and a lot of it is tech based.
And it is not at all “sexy”.
Me and my colleagues’ job is to not make government “sexy”, but to make government services simple, helpful, respectful and transparent.
To make government services focussed around a citizen and their life, and not expect a citizen to have to navigate Government and its structures and departments.
To take a “digital first, no wrong doors” approach - complemented by efficient and personalised telephony and face to face services.
Simple and helpful, so a single mum with three kids only has to give her birth certificate details to government ONCE to access childcare payments and an immunisation history.
Transparent and respectful, so a person applying for a visa can see progress and how much it will cost.
All of this, to quote Jim Collins, is one big, hairy, audacious goal – or B-HAG.
If COVID has taught us anything, it is that we are ready to tackle different challenges and set ambitious goals, especially in the use of technology.
Today, I’ll be taking you through the opportunities and challenges – not just that government isn’t “sexy” – in delivering for Australians and how we, as a Government, are making significant inroads to achieving our B-HAGs.
• our journey so far;
• the new DTA’s structure, responsibility and approach; and
• our next steps to deliver our goals.
The journey so far
Three years ago, the Commonwealth launched the Digital Transformation Strategy, with a goal to make all government services available digitally by 2025.
We are almost at the halfway mark, and, as I said in November last year, we have made significant progress both in delivery, as well as our capability and maturity.
Since the Digital Transformation Strategy was released, the government has published a number of additional strategies that provide an extra layer of detail about our direction.
The 2019 Hosting Strategy and the broader 2020 Cyber Strategy aim to ensure that our systems and data are residing in certified secure facilities and the foundations of national digital infrastructure are secure.
To guide the implementation of the Hosting Strategy, last month the DTA released the Hosting Certification Framework.
Now – just six weeks later – the first strategic hosting providers are already being certified, demonstrating there is a strong capability in the market to meet government needs, while serving as a signal to attract significant new investment in secure cloud services provided here, in Australia.
As with other examples of building national infrastructure, this will benefit all levels of government—and indeed private sector customers, who will be able to take advantage of the additional security and confidence offered by the certified hosting providers.
Digital Service Platforms Strategy
Building on this solid foundation, the Digital Service Platforms Strategy signalled the Government’s commitment to invest in scalable, repeatable and reusable digital platforms that allow speed, flexibility and innovation at scale.
Scalable, repeatable, reusable – this is at the core of Government’s thinking.
Platforms such as myGov, Digital Identity or Permissions Capability will save significant implementation time and enable cost-efficiencies.
They can accelerate business process alignment and simplification.
Most importantly, for customers, they can enable consistent ways of dealing with the government and removing friction, and making government simple, helpful, respectful, and transparent.
As part of the Digital Business Plan, the Commonwealth has invested $256.6 million to expand the Digital Identity system.
This investment will transform services for both government and business, by making it more secure to do business with government and the private sector online.
Digital Identity will enable Australians to easily prove who they are online, regardless of where they live or the service they are seeking to access.
It is built on a federated model, where any number of providers can offer their digital identity solution, as long as it is built and accredited to the Trusted Digital Identity Framework (TDIF).
More than 2.3 million people and 1.2 million businesses already use the government’s Digital Identity provider, myGovID, to gain secure and quick access to over 75 government services online.
Two weeks ago, I chaired a meeting with the data and digital ministers from the states and territories and together we re-committed to making digital identity a high priority for the nation.
We are currently building Digital Identity legislation to govern state, territory and private sector participation in the system.
This will enshrine additional safeguards and oversight to ensure Australians continue to have trust and confidence in the Digital identity system.
The legislation will enable a truly federated model of digital identity, where many providers – both public and private sector – can join in if they meet the rigorous criteria for accreditation.
Eftpos has recently applied for accreditation under the Trusted Digital Identity Framework and many other providers are interested in joining the system.
In the future, digital identity may be aligned with other countries, including New Zealand, making it an important whole of digital economy solution.
The DTA will commence the next round of consultations around legislation shortly.
Our long-term vision for myGov is to ensure it evolves to become a world leading single national digital platform that delivers simple, helpful, respectful and transparent services that meet the needs and expectations of all Australians.
We want myGov to take the guess work out of dealing with government.
And we want it to be able to respond quickly to time-critical government policy decisions and support their implementation, whether that be COVID vaccination status or national disaster assistance.
To test this vision, in June 2020, we released myGov Beta.
The Beta site is running alongside the existing myGov site while we continue to add and test new features, services and content with real people.
We will progressively provide new functionality, delivering personalised information and services as we strive for an ever more integrated and improved customer experience.
Since earlier this year, people have been able to use their Digital Identity to login and access their inbox, payment and task information.
People can also now access their immunisation history statement from myGov Beta.
The Australian Immunisation Register is one of Australia’s unsung national treasures.
It’s the envy of countries around the world because it’s a long-established single source of truth that will allow people to easily keep track of and prove their immunisation status as the COVID-19 vaccine is rolled out.
It is a true Government tech success story.
More than 330,000 people have now visited myGov Beta, providing more than 4,700 pieces of feedback.
We’re building the future front door for Government – openly and transparently.
We’re using this feedback to inform the design and build of future updates, as the site evolves to offer more content and services that Australians need.
In order to deliver these simple, helpful, respectful and transparent services, we must reform the way we manage data.
We know people are fed up with having to fill in multiple forms, providing the same data again and again across multiple services, instead of government prefilling the data and enabling them to verify its accuracy, like we do with the myTax service.
We’ve been talking about this concept for many years as ‘tell us once’, but we realised that is not really possible in the absence of major data reforms.
We are now delivering this reform through the Data Availability and Transparency Bill.
It will allow agencies to make controlled use of data for the delivery of government services, for informing government policy and for research and development.
This will enable Australians to benefit from better services that take into account their personal circumstances and implications across a number of policy domains.
Apart from ‘tell us once’, the bill will allow government to look at broad trends and macro data sets that offer valuable insights.
For example, insights into the ability to look at employment trends in particular areas and, in turn, identify the needs of employers, training capacity and how we fill those needs.
This will enable more productive participation in the economy, create more jobs and contribute to the future success of Australia as a country and as a digital economy.
The Bill is currently before the Parliament, and its passage will ensure that we can realise the benefits highlighted by the Productivity Commission and get on with managing data in a way that ensures the safety and security of the information Australians share with us.
New structures, approaches and responsibilities
The Prime Minister outlined his vision to make Australia a leading digital economy and society by 2030.
It is achievable if we take a unified approach across the federation.
The Commonwealth will play an important role in delivering this vision by driving the alignment across states and territories, while developing the right policies, delivering services,
connecting people and businesses.
The problems we face currently as a nation – whether it is economic recovery from COVID and creating more jobs, protecting our health and the vulnerable, or defending our national interests – require that we interact across all portfolios and tiers of government.
We owe it to Australians to work together in their best interests.
This holds true whether we deliver the NDIS or agree a new Skills Framework, whether we manage the response to the pandemic or deal with natural disasters.
That means government must operate as a consistent platform that brings together stakeholders, systems, processes and data to solve the challenges ahead of us.
This is the only way to deliver the alignment we need, to be on the same page with all Australians, to develop the right policies and deliver the right services.
In order to achieve what we desire, we must build on our foundations to deliver an integrated national digital infrastructure that will enable government as a platform.
To drive this agenda, the DTA is now a central agency within PM&C, with a revised mandate to be responsible for Whole of Government ICT governance, strategy, policy, architecture, processes and procedures.
Digital and Data – both within PM&C – report to me as the Whole of Government minister with responsibilities to drive this ambitious agenda.
We are now taking a whole-of-government – and, where appropriate, a whole-of-nation – approach to building scalable, secure and resilient data and digital capabilities that will not only deliver for Australia in a customer sense, but give us competitive advantages as a country and as an economy.
The National Cabinet has already asked Data and Digital Ministers to develop a principles-based Intergovernmental Agreement to enshrine data sharing across the Commonwealth, states and territories by default, where it can be done safely, securely and legally.
Because this is about building a national asset that will facilitate a step-change in data sharing between jurisdictions.
It will support policy development and service delivery by all levels of government, including at key points in people’s lives or living through a natural disaster—quickly and seamlessly.
This will reduce the need for Australians to try to navigate between different tiers of government and enable them to get on with their lives.
Right now, at a federal level, the Commonwealth is applying the same rigour and sophistication to investments in our data and digital assets that we do to other ubiquitous national infrastructure.
A century ago, in the early 1920s, the federal government was only starting to consider roads as national infrastructure.
In 1924, the Australian Automobile Association was formed in Canberra to lobby for federal road finance and a national traffic code.
By 1927, one in every four Australian families owned a car and roads became critical to transport, the national economy and the way people travelled.
Today, no one disputes that roads are critical national infrastructure for access and connections.
In our last Budget, the Morrison Government committed to invest a record $110 billion over 10 years from 2020-21 in transport infrastructure across Australia.
The largest infrastructure project in Australia – to the tune of $16 billion – is WestConnex, a 33km continuous motorway that will improve access and connections to Western Sydney and key employment hubs across the city.
Just as we invest in roads to provide access and connections, we need to do the same for the national digital infrastructure that our nation relies on.
For example, with over 20 million accounts, myGov is the one place most people went to in order to access government support during the pandemic.
myGov has one of the highest number of concurrent users in our country, with well over 2.5m Australians regularly using this and other Services Australia digital channels every day.
Building on what has already been done with myGov, we are putting in place the required capabilities for this platform to become a single front door for Government, a national asset that will enable people to interact with government and have seamless access to information, notifications and personalised services.
According to Lateral Economics, enhancing myGov could deliver benefits in excess of $3.6 billion.
myGov is just one example of national digital infrastructure that we as a nation, rely on.
There are many others – the Australian Immunisation Register, our identity systems, payment systems, our land and business registers, our border management systems.
To use another transport analogy, right now we have a digital infrastructure ‘system’ spread across all levels of government.
That is akin to Australia’s railway systems of old that were typified by the proliferation of narrow, standard and broad gauges right across the country.
It took decades to fix the disparate systems across states and it wasn’t until almost 100 years after Federation that mainland capitals were joined by a standard gauge—with resultant economic uplift.
So, the question ahead of us is how do we leverage all these different strategies to deliver a seamless platform for government?
How do we remove friction?
How do we put in place a system of rules to ensure we all go in the same direction?
How do we offer safe off-ramps for existing legacy systems and how do we invest in new capabilities that are aligned with the direction we are going?
How do we integrate systems across tiers of government and how do we fund this digital infrastructure to ensure we become a leading digital economy by 2030?
This is the task ahead.
Where Next for Digital Government
So, we are putting in place the right foundational settings – including cyber security.
On those foundations, we are building the right platforms – scalable, repeatable, reusable.
We are then looking to enable the right data to flow across the right platforms to enable the right decisions and policy settings.
These are the building blocks we need, but to deliver government as a platform and become a leading digital economy, we have to do to digital infrastructure building what Ford did to the production of automobiles: remove friction and make it effective, efficient, replicable and affordable, so that everyone can enjoy the opportunities and benefits.
Everything we will do will revolve around the citizen, their journey, their needs, the way they consume data and interact with services.
The days of expecting a citizen to orientate themselves around how government departments operate will end.
The citizen needs a single front door for their interaction with government, with inter-operability of channels and personalised services being paramount.
This is the defining narrative of how our government will interact with Australians.
Whole of Government Architecture
This means starting with a clear understanding of all the important elements we need and how they come together.
I have tasked the DTA with developing a Whole-of-Government Architecture that will map out all the strategic capabilities that we require as a government, including existing assets and any gaps we need to address.
This is the first time it’s been done. It is the first step in unifying the narrow, standard and broad gauges, as it were.
The Architecture will also account for the age and complexity of existing systems and allow us to start managing the lifecycle of projects.
This will get us a complete picture of what we have, what we need, what we must invest in and by when.
Similarly, the DTA is conducting a Digital Review, which will give us a clear picture of the capabilities of agencies: what levels of skills exist, at what levels of maturity, and how different agencies are currently performing in the delivery of their roles.
Once completed in the period ahead, we will have the ability to bring together the system view of the Whole of Government Architecture and the agency capacity view of the Digital Review, to understand how we start planning the future at enterprise scale across whole of government or whole of nation.
In some cases, we know that certain agencies cannot compete for skills and resources in the marketplace and we must develop alternative ways for meeting their needs.
Today I can announce the Commonwealth is looking to establish three Cyber Hub pilots to enable leading agencies such as Defence, Home Affairs and Services Australia to provide cyber services for those agencies that cannot match their breadth and depth of skills.
We can see a future where such hub models may be established for other types of scalable services, not just cybersecurity.
This may include broader ICT functions – such as secure email, or corporate services – such as finance or HR.
Such decisions will be informed by the Whole of Government Architecture and the Digital Review, which will provide that complete lifecycle picture of needs and capabilities.
Integrated Investment Approach
This will also enable the government to make the right investment decisions.
Right now, digital and ICT investment can be a bit like the hunger games, where government often finds itself with investment proposals that are presented as urgent or critical, but with limited opportunity to consider the broader strategic context of those proposals.
Is it the right decision, for example, to spend money now on a particular project if the Whole of Government Architecture flags we can expect one or more similar projects to come up for funding in the near future?
Unlike the private and industry sectors, such questions are far more complex in the Government sector—owing to the criticality of systems to the lives of Australians.
Can we imagine if income support payments stopped for two or three days?
GDP would plummet. Fear and uncertainty in households would abound.
Such an integrated investment approach is going to be crucial for developing the right digital infrastructure going forward and the DTA is working hard across the public sector to get us that integrated investment view.
Similarly, once the government takes a decision to invest in developing certain platforms and digital infrastructure, we must ensure we do so in the most effective and efficient way possible.
We know the Commonwealth Procurement Rules require agencies to have a strong focus on ‘value for money—the price they pay for products and services.
However, there seems to be less focus paid on how much money and time we spend on the procurement process itself.
Long, complex procurement processes do not serve anyone – apart from the specialised industry that has been built around them.
Such practices cost government and providers a lot of money, use precious time that can be more productively put towards implementation and artificially restrict the available providers to those that can afford the high costs and long timeframes involved.
As a result, the government may be missing out on significant innovation from segments of the market, including Australian providers, who may find it easier and faster to engage with private sector customers, rather than go through the long procurement cycles in government.
If we are going to become a leading digital economy by 2030, we have to drive efficiency, enable innovation and harness the ingenuity of Australian businesses, including small and medium enterprises.
That means we need better procurement channels and processes for engaging with the market and driving Australian participation.
Fundamental principles ensuring fairness, value for money and proper dealings with providers must co-exist with simple and agile procurement processes that stimulate competition and innovation and encourage greater Australian participation.
The Digital Marketplace is a great example, with over $3.4 billion of contracts awarded and over 70 per cent of those going to SMEs.
However, we must ensure that similar agile arrangements are available for more complex projects, including whole of government platforms.
This means having arrangements – such as panels and marketplaces – that are open to new entrants to stimulate innovation and competition.
It means having a greater focus on the strategic, social and economic benefit of Australian participation and enshrining that consistently in the way we engage with the industry.
The DTA recently launched a new Cloud Marketplace panel, which will open often for new sellers to join and will be available to all levels of government, including states and territories.
We have released a new government Reuse Catalogue to provide agencies with a consolidated view of emerging or existing government platforms and help identify and share reusable platforms, as well as bringing industry together in a way that encourages local participation and innovation.
We’ve introduced a new exemption to the Commonwealth Procurement Rules which allows agencies to directly engage a small to medium enterprise for procurements valued up to $200,000, up from the previous threshold of $80,000.
We’ve faced significant challenges during the COVID 19 pandemic.
Now, our efforts must focus on our nation’s recovery and delivering on our goals to become a leading digital economy and society by 2030.
On the economic front, nationally, the number of Australians employed is higher now than when we entered the pandemic, something no other OECD nation has achieved.
Our growth rate in the last quarter was 3.1 per cent.
What we've achieved was no accident.
It didn't happen through any advantage or luck.
The advances made in digital government to respond to the pandemic are now the building blocks of the next advances, centred around the citizen, not around government.
The expectations and needs from people and businesses have changed dramatically over the past 12 months, with the demand for digital services growing significantly.
Today you will hear from Public Service leaders who are advancing digital transformation within their agencies and across government.
They know – as I do – that Australians have seen that the public service can innovate at speed and deliver digital-first solutions,
and that is now the standard they’ll expect into the future.
That is why we are going to ramp things up and accelerate the transformation of the Australian experience of government, with the goal of making government simple, helpful, respectful and transparent in everything we do - all revolving around what the citizen wants.