OPINION - Just weeks after becoming Finance Minister in NSW, I opened the cupboard of my parliamentary offices to find something that I hadn’t seen for years and thought I would never see again - boxes and boxes of old blue 3.5” floppy disks.
To me, this said a lot about the state of technology within the government sector.
I’m a proud member of Gen Y.
I check Twitter on my iPad. I track my runs using a Fitbit. And I do my banking on my mobile.
It seems everywhere I go, the private sector is supporting and encouraging customers like me to embrace cloud, social and mobile solutions.
Everywhere that is, except in government.
Entering government agencies can be like entering the world of yesterday. A world of paper documents, of printing things out and faxing things around. A world of being asked the same information by different departments a number of times, of long paper forms and endless queues. A nine to five analog world that no one has time for anymore.
Especially not Gen Y.
But I’m pleased to say that things are changing in New South Wales.
Thanks to the work done on our technology strategy, we are now putting ourselves in strong position to deliver a truly digital experience for our citizens. And we have done this by adopting an ‘inside-out’ approach.
In three short years, we have completely overhauled our policies around how we source, invest and procure new technology – and developed governance structures to match.
We’ve built two state of the art data centres with private sector help – to store our data and provide new services.
We’ve led the way in open government and open data, hosting apps4NSW competitions so that you can tell us how to make best used of what we have.
But most importantly, we’ve embarked on a journey to consolidate our 400 shopfronts, 8000 phone numbers, 1000 websites and 100 call centres, under the banner of Service NSW.
We’ve served over 6 million customers using this ‘one stop shop’ model, bringing together 800 transactions from 15 different agencies and achieving a customer satisfaction rating of 98 percent. This is unheard of even in the private sector.
But all this has been a preparation for what’s to come next.
The update to our ICT Strategy which we announced today is called Digital Plus. It represents an evolution in our thinking, shifting the focus away from hardware, software and infrastructure to how technology can help design a better government for citizens, industry and the public sector.
If our citizens can bank on their mobiles, why can’t they transact with government too?
Good question. It’s why we’ve announced a new Service NSW app which will launch on iPhone next month and Android later in the year. It will have a few transactions to start off with, but our vision is for this to be your mobile portal to interact with government where you want and how you want.
Many small to medium businesses are today using cloud providers like Amazon Web Services to get out of the business of technology. We should too in government – which is why we’ve added them to our catalogue of services for government agencies. We’ll continue to find ways to better manage our $2 billion ICT spend and be smarter about the technology we use and add new suppliers to our service catalogue.
In a digital age, it’s time for the government to move from paper to petabytes. Right now we store 500 linear kilometres of paper in our records repository - the distance from Sydney to Mount Kosciusko. So for this reason, I’ve asked for a strategic review of government records management to address the shift from physical to virtual assets. The records of the future are digital and the repositories of the future are data centres.
But we’re not going to stop there. I’ve asked our Accelerating Digital Government Taskforce to push the envelope when it comes to the art of the possible.
I would like to see a rapid response squad of digital innovation experts, made up of the best minds in the public and private sector, to help us solve problems in service delivery.
I’d also like to see a single team within government responsible for collecting, maintaining and release our datasets as we enter a new decade of data.
The journey to change technology in government isn’t easy. And it will no doubt take longer than we all would like.
But Gen Y has already moved to the next generation of services. It’s time for the government to meet them where they are.
Dominic Perrottet is the NSW Minister for Finance & Services.