The Victorian government will design platforms and infrastructure for cloud by default and introduce staged funding for IT projects under its first-ever digital strategy.
The long-awaited 2021-2026 strategy [pdf], quietly released this week, replaces the state's 2016 IT strategy, which expired at the end of 2020.
It comes a year after the government set aside $196 million in last year’s state budget to establish Digital Victoria, a digital unit within the Department of Premier and Cabinet.
The unit, formally established in July, is charged with leading the state’s digital and IT strategy and planning, as well as the delivery of priority initiatives and programs.
Government Service Minister Danny Pearson said the strategy provides a blueprint to “accelerate change” and invest in the neccesary digital infrastructure and skills.
“We want to be fully embedded in how we serve the Victorian community so our people can benefit from, and be empowered by, secure, inclusive digital services,” he said in the strategy’s forward.
The strategy establishes a set of technology guidelines and design principles across three pillars: better, fairer, more accessible services; a digital-ready public sector; and a thriving digital economy.
Under the principles, the government will become “cloud by design” for platforms and infrastructure, and will only “invest in on-premises infrastructure” if cloud is deemed unsuitable.
In light of this shift, the government also plans to adapt budgeting frameworks that allow it to “take a more agile approach to funding digital initiatives”, following in the footsteps of other jurisdictions.
“We will take an agile approach to investment by providing staged funding for digital initiatives. This will enable us to respond faster to changes,” the strategy states.
The government also plans to pursue “wider opportunities for common, connected platforms to accelerate the pace of change” by “tak[ing] time to understand shared needs”.
A number of common platforms already exist across government, including the Service Victoria platform that is increasingly used to delivery citizen-facing services and, more recently, identity services.
But the strategy reveals plans to further reshape government around individuals and businesses to “focus on the customer” and ensure services are inclusive and accessible.
By adopting a ‘tell us once’ approach and driving further personalisation, platforms are expected to become increasingly low- or no-touch.
The government also expects greater use of artificial intelligence and robotic process automation for repetitive tasks.
But it will set “ethical guardrails across sectors more broadly for the use of personal data, AI and other emerging technology”.
The government also plans to take a “reuse before rent before buy before build” approach to software, an evolution on the “reuse, cloud, buy, then build” approach in the previous strategy.
The four-step approach means the government will only subscribe to a software-as-a-service (SaaS) product or buy off-the-shelf software if no “fit for purpose” solution already exists.
The government will only build software solutions as a last resort, much like the approach it plans to take with cloud.
Procurement also features heavily in the strategy, with the government envisaging reforms that lead to “quicker, simpler processes for tendering, procuring and mobilising work” in the future.
“We will renew our focus on Victorian businesses acting as suppliers for technology and implementing new digital platforms,” the strategy states.