A policy seen to be working in one jurisdiction will never remain it's exclusive property for long, and at this morning’s plenary session of the 2011 CeBIT Conference NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell made it clear that he was not looking for prizes for originality when it comes to ICT policy.
“The fastest way to bring change to this state is not to build from the ground-up but to see what is working elsewhere,” he said.
In a speech to delegates, O’Farrell advocated the development of a single government web portal, based on New York and Canadian models, government apps and consolidated “one-stop-shops” where members of the public can access multiple government services under one roof.
“We have across this state motor registries where people can go and get a licence and register their cars but can’t conduct any other interaction with government,” O’Farrell said.
“We have Departments of Fair Trading that operate in many centres throughout the state. There is no reason why both of these can’t be turned into one stop shops, whether you need to renew your licence or address your fair trading issue, whether you have a business licence issue or need an extract of a birth, death or marriage certificate, or whether you need to buy a fishing licence or conduct any other transaction with government,” he said.
‘One stop shops’ have been contemplated by governments of all persuasions for at least the last decade, and in some instances longer. Turning them into reality has proved difficult, owing to the ‘stovepipe’ mentality of some agencies, the lack of enabling ICT, insufficient political will, or an insufficiently strong business case to warrant the investment.
At the Federal Government level, the recipient of by far the largest ICT funding pool in the recently tabled 2011 budget was the Department of Human Services, which will put it towards the rationalisation of ICT infrastructure in support of one-stop-shops where clients can interact with Centrelink, Medicare and the Child Support Agency in one place.
The Draft ICT Strategic Vision released by the Department of Finance and Deregulation for feedback in April also advocated much closer ties between agencies including the development of ‘tell-us-once’ information sharing capabilities. This would remove the need for clients to submit the same sets of information over and over again.
Any service consolidation would also be supported by a single web portal that would replace the 300 NSW Government websites that are currently online.
It would be a “new internet web portal entirely focussed around the customer and their needs,” the Premier said, adding that his own son had criticised his department’s online presence.
“I encourage you to look at the Department of Premier and Cabinet’s website to see just how unattractive, how unresponsive and how – as my 17 year-old son would say –useless some of these websites can be.”
The former Labor Government established the nsw.gov.au website and 131 NSW call centre and while this was dubbed as a whole of government portal, its scope and functionality fell well short of a true portal for state government information and transactions. The current site effectively serves a repository of links to external agency sites.
“We look forward to working with this industry to deliver these changes to public administration across NSW,” O’Farrell told the crowd of ICT professionals.
In his CeBIT address, O’Farrell also articulated a desire for government services to move into the mobile space.
“We recognise that people are increasingly relying on mobile devices to get the information that they need,” he said.
He added that he would like to build a State where people accessed real time public transport information and emergency department waiting times through specially developed smart phone apps.
Thanks to his Labor predecessors, all the necessary infrastructure is already in place to develop a real time arrival app for state buses.
The Roads and Traffic Authority has established the public transport information and priority system (PTIPS), a GPS network that is designed to direct traffic lights to favour late-running services. The system is already being used for real time bus SMS services, launched by the Keneally Government in the lead up to the election.