For the fifth consecutive time, New South Wales has held first place as the jurisdiction most “digital government ready”, with a score of 9.4 out of a possible 10 on Intermedium’s Digital Government Readiness Indicator (DGRI).
The indicator is a measure of what each government has done at a whole of government (WofG) policy, legislative or procedural level to ensure that its agencies are supported and enabled in their digital transformation activities and that any impediments to this are removed, according to Judy Hurditch, Intermedium’s Principal Analyst.
Three other jurisdictions – Federal, Queensland and Victoria are also extremely close to being declared ‘digital government ready’, according to the January 2019 update of Intermedium’s DGRI. To achieve this, they had to score highly with regard to their WofG ICT/digital strategies, cyber security, data and privacy and procurement policies, as well as approach to ICT governance, citizen-centric service delivery and degree of cross-jurisdictional cooperation.
South Australia and ACT are chasing this group, but WA, the Northern Territory and Tasmania are lagging to the point where their citizens will suffer second-rate services and their cost of government administration will be significantly higher than the jurisdictions which have scored higher on the indicator, she added.
However, Hurditch was at pains to point out that the Northern Territory has had the single biggest turnaround with its score improving by 40 percent on the last assessment, in June 2017.
If there is any negative spotlight to be shone, said Hurditch, it is on Tasmania, which on a score of 5.5 has barely changed since the first round of readiness assessments were done, and is currently sitting at the bottom of the leader board. Tasmania is at real risk of finding it has a ‘train gauges’ problem if it does not move on putting in place its digital transformation policy and procedural enablers, she said.
According to Hurditch, there are a range of reasons for how a jurisdiction fares on this indicator. Ultimately, it comes down to how ICT-savvy its government is at a political level, and therefore how much its politicians individually and collectively can envision and understand what a digitally transformed government might look like.
And even if it has that vision, it must back that with commitment and funding. So far, we only see a few jurisdictions able to stay the course on this one.
It can derail almost completely in the period following a change of government. Digital transformation is also particularly vulnerable to changes in responsibility of key politicians. We have seen time and time again over the last 15 years, from Lindsay Tanner to Malcolm Turnbull, how important the attitude and depth of understanding of the responsible Minister is to government use of technology. If they get it, they really get it. If they don’t, digital transformation progress is always severely set back.
NSW’s high score can be explained in this context, she added. There has been a serious level of commitment at a political level to digital transformation starting with Barry O’Farrell at the change of government in 2014 and continued with Andrew Constance and Dominic Perrottet. Coincidental with this has been solid funding. Hurditch says Intermedium’s research suggests that NSW has directly spent at least $2 billion on Service NSW and its attendant digitally transformed services, with the indirect spend (e.g. Roads and Maritime converting their shopfronts to Service NSW shopfronts) impossible to quantify but also likely to be extremely high.
She says that the jurisdictions that are consistently increasing their score are turning their attention to the digital transformation of their back office environments, recognising that it is hard for their employees to imagine improved citizen services if they are held back with manual processes and antiquated IT systems.
“While back office transformation has been the holy grail for years, we are into a whole new ballgame with the increasing take-up and enthusiasm for analytics in all its guises – avatars, chat bots, robotic process automation, machine learning. As this technology becomes more pervasive and cheaper, we are going to see business cases with a return on investment measured in months, not years,” says Hurditch. “This is why having WofG data, privacy and cyber security policies, together with high level WofG governance is so vital and why Intermedium sees it as important to measure and compare jurisdictions efforts in this regard.”
Download your copy of the Digital Government Readiness Indicator here.