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First-ever Tas GCIO on making sound tech investments

by Poppy Johnston •
Free resource

A little over a month after being appointed as the first Tasmanian Government Chief Information Officer, Dr Glenn Lewis has hit the ground running, driven by the need to forge closer, more collaborative and productive relationships within and between all three tiers of government and the private sector.

Dr Lewis brings more than senior public sector experience to the position; he has a background in academia, and has also worked in government business enterprises and the private sector. This broad-ranging perspective will hold him in good stead as he heads up the Tasmanian Government’s Office of eGovernment and leads development of a digital innovation strategy that is future-focused, user-driven and responsive to the evolving needs of Tasmanians.

Intermedium spoke with Dr Lewis to find out more about his insights into the benefits, constraints and challenges that lie ahead.

What insights did you bring from your time as the Tasmanian Treasury’s former director of IT to your role as Tasmanian Government Chief Information Officer (TGCIO)?

One of the key insights I have gained while working with the Tasmanian Government is that while there are many instances in which a whole-of-government approach is extremely cost-effective and productive, there are equally as many instances in which the uniquely different priorities and challenges of individual agencies can only be met through tailored solutions.

In other words, while some things are best managed at an agency level, a consolidated approach to others can deliver significant gains. By taking into account the need to provide sufficient flexibility to cater for both a diversity and similarity of needs, we can achieve new efficiencies, not just in the way government operates, but in developing and delivering an improved range of contemporary digital services to meet the current and future needs of all Tasmanian communities.

Extensive and meaningful collaboration with all parties is a critically important part of this process, which is why we are working very closely with representatives across government and business, and with people in both urban and rural communities.

With the understanding that one of your initial responsibilities is to develop the state’s new whole-of-government ICT strategy, can you advise what the priority areas will be? Can you provide an expected delivery date for the strategy?

We expect that the strategy will have a number of streams and will not be limited to the nuts and bolts of ICT; technology is just one part of a much bigger picture. The Office of eGovernment is working collaboratively at a multi-agency level to develop a range of outcomes-focused goals that bring together all the critical elements: ICT, cybersecurity, information management, spatial and non-spatial data analytics, and better public-facing digital services.

Similar to the work underway in many other Australian jurisdictions, Tasmania’s primary focus is to innovate today with tomorrow in mind. That means protecting the integrity of government information, using that information to make evidence-led decisions, and thinking very strategically about when and how to invest in new and emerging technologies. Our overarching priority is to deliver simple, secure and streamlined services for the Tasmanian community.   

Development of any successful strategy cannot be done in isolation, and the intensive consultation process with agencies has only just begun. We are working towards a staged delivery of strategic documentation over this financial year, followed by a phased implementation period after the high-level outcomes are established and agreed. 

What new technologies will the government pursue to achieve whole-of-government digital transformation?

The core of the work we are doing is to identify flexible and sustainable business outcomes and community benefits.  We are still in discovery mode, but once we have established what our communities want and need – now and into the future – we will be much better placed to consider the range of technological solutions that may help us to achieve those goals. 

What challenges does Tasmania’s location, size and its other unique characteristics pose to the state’s progress towards digital transformation?

Tasmania truly is unique in many ways. According to the latest census, our comparatively small population base is not just the most geographically dispersed in Australia; the average Tasmanian is older and earns less money than residents of other Australian states and territories. 

Tasmania is, however, the perfect size for proof-of-concept projects, both geographically and from a population size perspective. The state also boasts a good mix of urban and rural settlements and we have well-established institutional linkages that are easily leveraged to successfully trial and test complex systems and progressive initiatives. 

While there may be challenges relating to internet access, affordability and digital literacy, none of these are insurmountable. The most important thing is to ensure that all Tasmanians are able to connect easily and efficiently with government, regardless of when, where and how they wish to connect.

With ICT procurement reform currently on the agenda at the federal level, will Tasmania follow suit and look to improve the procurement process for both agencies and suppliers?

Government is always looking for new ways to improve and streamline the procurement of goods and services. The Tasmanian Government’s ‘Buy Local’ policy is designed to enhance opportunities for local businesses to compete for Government business, at the same time as it reduces administrative burden by simplifying procurement documentation and building greater process transparency. 

Developing more agile and responsive procurement processes is always on the agenda. I see our ongoing strategic work as a fundamental enabler to ensure we both meet current needs and anticipate future trends.

How is the state progressing towards the establishment of the on-island cloud service (Tasmanian Cloud)? Will the Tasmanian Cloud play a key role in the advancement of the government’s digital agenda?

Networking Tasmania currently provides proactively managed ‘as a service’ functions in the Tasmanian Cloud. Our philosophy and intent is to leverage best practice with least risk, reducing costs and key person dependencies wherever possible. All decisions about future infrastructure investment will be fully informed by and considered strategically in the context of the broader digital agenda.  

In your experience working in government ICT, is there a trend towards agile development models for ICT projects, or do waterfall methodologies endure? How does this impact project delivery?

Naturally, the appropriate methodology for any project is one that meets project specifications and target outcomes. While the use of agile models can reduce risk and improve outcomes in the right project, it really depends on the scope and risk assessment of the project at hand.

In your opinion, which ICT functions are best outsourced and which are best kept in house?

It is clearly very important to recognise and support those ICT functions that are best kept in-house at the same time as we encourage and support the efficiency and productivity gains that can be achieved by strong collaboration and careful negotiation. Having a good understanding of the business outcomes that the various agencies must achieve is critical, which is why we are making sure all Tasmanian Government agencies are actively involved in the strategic work that is now underway. 

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