Is NSW the most IT-advanced state government?

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Is NSW the most IT-advanced state government?

[Blog Post] Assessing the state of state IT.

The NSW Government has time and time again repeated its pledge to make the state number one when it comes to IT.

As the Coalition's first term draws to a close, has it achieved this aim? This week we find out as part of iTnews' State of IT study.

The NSW Parliament’s public accounts committee is still convinced that the state’s public sector IT is in crisis - so much so that it kicked off a full inquiry into the matter in 2012.

Macquarie Street has overseen one or two corkers over the years: Empty T-Card posts can still be found at Sydney train and bus stations, the last remaining artefact of the T-Card electronic ticketing system that never was. Education’s mammoth LMBR rollout is also having a couple of wobbles. But by the standards set by its east coast neighbours, NSW has an IT disaster history that hardly even rates a mention.

As part of our State of IT study, iTnews has scored the states and territories against the same 12 point IT maturity index. NSW came out on top with 9/12:

The NSW Government nonetheless wasted little time getting a new IT strategy in place after it won March 2011’s state election in a landslide, heaving out Labor’s savings-focused plan and replacing it with a longer-term vision.

The foundations of success had arguably already been laid by the state’s senior IT bureaucrats before the change of government took place. In late 2010, the ad-lib panel of agency CIOs and corporate services chiefs that made up the former CIO Executive Council was scrapped and replaced with a structured hierarchy.

At the pinnacle of the new governance scheme sits a board made up of secretaries from each of the eight agency clusters, who have the final say on ICT policy and projects. This means that decisions are ultimately being made by the same men and women who have responsibility for seeing them put into action at the agency level.

The new model also formalised channels of consultation between the private sector and agency CIOs – enshrining collaboration in mandated lines of reporting.

This meant that IT departments could no longer operate in the dark and hope no-one noticed if things went wrong. The Coalition wasted no time trying to sell the reform as its own idea.

The state’s central IT chiefs inside the Office of Finance and Services (OFS) also appear determined to win agencies over to cloud before wielding their legislative sticks.

Successful cloud roll-outs are being promoted through ‘pilot’ schemes, giving IT managers a tangible narrative to sell to their superiors rather than just hollow hype. While this approach might take a little longer to come to fruition than a procurement mandate it has the potential to produce a better long-term gain.

The biggest risk facing the state now is that they will undo all of this good work by outsourcing their technology brains trust to the private sector.

Last year the government updated the wish-list of capabilities it wants public servants to strive for to include an up-to-date understanding of contemporary technologies and their government applications, and has vowed to investigate gaps in its ICT workforce.

Let’s just hope that it can build up in-house skills faster than Macquarie Street sacks them, with Businesslink already cut to the bone and bids currently coming in for the outsourcing of ServiceFirst.

Want to see how all the states and territories stack up? Download our State of IT report. Do you work for the government? Then let us know how you would have scored your state here.

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Paris Cowan
Paris Cowan joined iTnews in July 2013 after a stint at Intermedium, a news and data analysis firm based exclusively on government IT procurement. At Intermedium, Paris reported on new IT projects underway in state and federal agencies, interviewed public sector CIOs and was subsequently promoted to Online Editor in June 2012. While public sector IT will remain her key focus at iTnews, she has been given a broader remit to cover technology programs across several industries.
Read more from this blog: The State of IT

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