Topics: Digital Transformation, Data Analytics; ICT Strategy; Fed.
A Labor Government would aim to improve data openness and analysis to drive productivity growth, but has not committed to reinvesting $500 million in planned savings towards the digital transformation of the public sector.
Just a day out from the federal election, Labor’s ICT policy position is less clear than the Coalition’s, with the exception of its vision for the National Broadband Network and further opening access to government data.
In contrast, the Coalition has placed a large focus on accelerating government digital transformation through a number of proposed initiatives.
Labor’s only ICT-specific policy document, the National Information Policy, which was released long before the election campaign began, focuses on further utilising and analysing data to drive innovation, productivity and growth.
“The more people that are able to access de-identified data, and the more data sets that it is able to be combined with, the greater its overall value. Yet today, where data is collected at all [sic], it is largely stored away in silos with regulations, organisation policies and culture shielding it from use by others", it states.
The policy proposes a cross-sector Independent Data Council consisting of experts from government, academia and the private sector to promote further data openness, and an Integrated Data Infrastructure (IDI) modelled on New Zealand’s data platform to “allow different data sets to be integrated and new insights to be drawn for policy evaluation and research”.
Further, Labor would establish a National Centre for Data Analytics within the Digital Transformation Office (DTO) that “would act as a central source of data-analysis expertise for the Federal Government, providing expert support to its departments and agencies”. This follows other jurisdictions like New South Wales’s Data Analytics Centre, which recently received $17 million over four years to diagnose the issues that confront government.
While Labor has committed to housing new initiatives within the DTO, the degree of its support for the Whole-of-Government (WofG) digital service delivery lead and the digital transformation of the public sector more broadly remains unclear.
Labor’s last formal policy position on online service delivery in 2013 revealed a similar commitment to the Coalition’s Policy for E-Government and the Digital Economy 2013 pre-election pledge, requiring that agencies “implement end-to-end online processing for government services, with a single authentication process by the end of 2017”.
However, the Shadow Parliamentary Secretary Assisting with Digital Innovation and Startups Ed Husic appears undecided as to whether the DTO should be the agency leading this process.
He revealed a favourable view of the DTO in an opinion piece in April, placing Labor’s support behind it. “Federal Labor thinks this is a positive development. Regardless of who is in office, the work of the DTO should continue. That’s why we’ve extended bipartisan support to it”, he said.
More recently, however, Husic told the InnovationAus Election 2016 Innovation Policy Debate that the DTO is in danger of being niche.
Given Labor’s support for innovation and start-ups, it can be expected that the DTO will at least continue working on the $15 million Digital Marketplace.
“[W]ith Commonwealth Government procurement worth over $48 billion per year, we should be encouraging departments and agencies to better engage with SMEs and startups, to drive innovation and help Australian entrepreneurs prove the value of their ideas.”
Labor has also committed to conducting a review by 1 January 2017 “to investigate how to replace the 2016-17 Budget Efficiency Dividend … with new measures that achieve the same savings, without targeting staffing costs”, Shadow Minister for Finance Tony Burke and the Shadow Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations Brendan O’Connor said in a joint statement.
“This review will focus on enabling the shift towards e-gov and digital transformation, however still ensuring that this does not compromise service, accessibility and the capability of the public sector.”
Labor has also indicated that the $500 million it expects from new savings measures to replace the efficiency dividend will go towards “improving service provision at the Australian Tax Office and the Department of Human Services to reduce Centrelink call waiting times and increase call centre staffing”.
The Coalition, on the other hand, will invest $500 million from $1.4 billion in savings generated by increasing the efficiency dividend to 2.5 per cent in 2017-18, 2 per cent in 2018-19 and 1.5 per cent in 2019-20, into digital transformation.
Labor has commitment to trialling an ‘AusGov Challenge Platform’ to engage all Australians in the challenges that face Government. The platform is similar to the challenge.gov platform used by the United States Government, where agencies can crowdsource innovative solutions to challenges by offering prizes.
Creation of a WofG portal was one of the top scoring ideas from a Policy Hack conducted by the Assistant Minister for Innovation Wyatt Roy in October 2015.
Intermedium approached Labor for comment on its ICT polices but did not receive a reply before publication.