NSW govt needs a 'safe harbour' to take risks: Dominello

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NSW govt needs a 'safe harbour' to take risks: Dominello
Innovation Minister Victor Dominello

State-wide innovation strategy on the way.

NSW innovation minister Victor Dominello says the government is right to tread carefully around critical services like hospitals and ambulances, but also needs to create a “safe harbour” where it can innovate and experiment without fearing the consequences.

Creating this safe space within a risk-averse public sector will be one of the key aims of a whole-of-government innovation strategy Dominello plans to unveil in the new year.

Presenting the final update to the state’s IT strategy at an AIIA forum in Sydney today, the minister noted that governments tend to be satisfied with incremental change.

“But the real big seismic shifts occur when you've got something way outside the square. That requires a lot of courage and a culture inside government where we are saying we are prepared to fail,” he said.

“We need to create a safe harbour within government where it is ok to take risks, where we do encourage people to be more entrepreneurial.”

Another challenge the innovation strategy will seek to overcome is the “merry-go-round of ministerial visits” currently standing between people who have good ideas and the slow-turning gears of government.

“There are too many starting points into government. Let’s just hypothetically say there is a great innovative idea for health," Dominello said.

"If a person goes to the Department of Health, they might say ‘we need some more money, we had better go to Treasury’. Treasury might say ‘there is an ICT component, it might need to go to the Department of Finance’.

“Your first port of contact could take months and maybe even years. And the innovation in many cases will have been smothered and buried."

The state plans to ask both the public and industry for ideas on how it might meet these lofty ideals before settling on a plan.

Next week, however, one project that has been brewing behind the scenes for a number of months will go live in the offices of the premier, innovation minister and NSW cabinet, plus department secretaries.

NSW customer service commissioner Mike Pratt said that on December 3, he will flick the switch on a series of electronic dashboards displaying metrics on the performance of NSW government as a whole, which will also be available from a laptop or mobile device.

“In corporate life you have a set of metrics you get daily, weekly, monthly. Whatever it might be. Government doesn’t get that. We get it by agency but there isn’t a whole-of-government view," he said.

“I’m really excited to say by the end of next week the minister will get a dashboard, the premier will get a dashboard and cabinet will get a dashboard."

The scheme has been inspired by the rollout of real-time performance metrics throughout Service NSW shopfronts across the state, which are designed to create competition between centres to beat their colleagues on customer KPIs.

The government released its latest iteration of its whole-of-government IT strategy at the AIIA event, revealing plans develop a coordinated strategy to transition off agency IT as well as a single identity framework that will see public servants issued with a unique identification number and a common @nsw.gov.au email address that can be carried on through job changes.

It also announced the impending launch of a new digital government strategy to underpin the innovation plan, informed by a new advisory panel.

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