The Northern Territory government’s digital transformation journey has taken a giant leap forward with the release of the territory’s long-awaited inaugural digital strategy and the accompanying Action Plan for 2018-19.
Published on 10 October, the Digital Territory Strategy orients the territory’s digital future around five ‘digital directions’: growing jobs and business; connecting territory communities; building digital skills; enabling smarter communities; and improving government services.
The digital directions “will be progressed through a series of cohesive and structured initiatives that are refreshed annually”, according to the strategy, with the accompanying Digital Territory Action Plan 2018-19 outlining key initiatives that will drive the territory’s digital transformation forward across this financial year.
Divided into three lifecycle phases – design, explore and deliver – the initiatives listed under the Action Plan also identify the entity leading the action and the partners that will help achieve each vision.
The annual Action Plans will also report back on the achievements of the previous year.
The Northern Territory is the last Australian jurisdiction to publish a Whole-of-Government (WofG) digital strategy – which in part contributed to its low score in Intermedium’s Digital Government Readiness Indicator (DGRI) in its March 2016 and July 2017 iterations. With the publication of the strategy, the NT can expect an improved score in the next iteration of the DGRI, due to be published in mid-November 2018.
Some of the more notable initiatives in the 2018-19 Action Plan are examined below.
A number of data-related initiatives are listed across the five digital directions, emphasising the increasing centrality of data to public sector functions.
Listed under the ‘explore’ phase, the NT is planning an “open data portal that makes government datasets available to the community online through a single, user friendly portal”. Other jurisdictions have already instituted similar arrangements – including the federal government via data.gov.au – and this initiative is expected to bring the NT’s digital offerings further in line with the rest of Australia.
Under the ‘design’ phase, the NT government has a “data centre refresh program underway that will result in two contemporary data centres”, consisting of a primary Government Data Centre at Millner and a back-up commercial data centre in Darwin.
“The project will move into the commissioning phase in 2019,” states the Action Plan.
The NT government will also create “an information system for capturing and presenting natural resource data” to the community, as well as improve data capturing methods to better monitor community needs.
Linking rural, remote and urban Territorians is one of five digital directions, and is accompanied by a swathe of initiatives in the telecommunications sector.
Reflecting the priorities outlined in NT’s 2018 Infrastructure Plan, which was released in September, three telecommunications projects are featured under the Action Plan: the Remote Telecommunications Co‑investment Program with Telstra, the Mobile Hotspots Program, and modernising radio transmission infrastructure in the Territory to support emergency and other frontline services.
These projects received substantial funding in the NT’s 2018-19 budget, which set aside $14 million over four years to expand the Remote Telecommunications Co‑investment Program in 37 remote locations. As part of the co‑investment arrangement, Telstra is matching the investment “dollar for dollar” raising the project’s total to $28 million.
Telstra has been a telecommunications partner of the NT since 2009, with its previous co-investment amounting to $30 million over three years under an agreement signed in 2015.
Other telco actions include upgrading and rolling out free community wi-fi and exploring solutions for better and more affordable internet access in regional and remote areas.
Developing Darwin as a smart city tech hub is a headline initiative under the Action Plan. The smart tech platform will seek to incorporate “smart controllers, data analytics and sensors for video, sound, climate and environmental conditions”, with design work across the city planned over 2018-19.
Smart city tech investments have been ramping up around Australia, with a number of cities including Canberra, Melbourne and Brisbane rolling out public wi-fi, trialling smart parking and street lighting, and examining other Internet-of-Things (IoT) for their potential to improve service delivery and convenience of residents.
Strengthening cyber security measures and education is a particular focus of the 2018-19 Action Plan. This follows significant budget funding allocated to the field in 2018-19, with more than $2.3 million earmarked to shore up the NT government’s cyber resilience, including the setup of a Cyber Security Operations Centre.
As well as increasing “NT Government’s cyber security capacity and capability to better protect systems and data from cyberattacks”, NT will invest in building cyber skills by “digitis[ing], updat[ing] and expand[ing] the government’s cyber security awareness program to reach more Territorians”.
In partnership with the federal government, NT will also scope the potential establishment of a Joint Cyber Security Centre and a Cyber Growth Node in Darwin. Joint Cyber Security Centres have already opened in capital cities across Australia – Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney, Perth – and is scheduled to open in Adelaide soon.
The Action Plan does not mention the possibility of introducing a dedicated cyber security strategy, however. Three states (and the federal government) have thus far published cyber security strategies – Victoria, South Australia, and most recently, NSW.
Improving government service delivery
With Service Victoria and ServiceWA website now live, the NT is the only jurisdiction without a WofG citizen-facing omni-channel service delivery portal. This may soon be remedied, however, with the Action Plan promising to “[so]urce a customer-centric digital forms platform that will enable Territorians to do more business with government online”.
Along with an online service platform, NT will explore a refresh of the main government website nt.gov.au, design “a central digital solution for reporting and tracking the progress of key government initiatives” to improve agency reporting, and monitor the development of national digital identification system.
NT will also introduce a suite of new digital policies, including a Digital Services Policy to ensure government’s digital services are “customer focused, consistent and convenient”. Listed under the ‘design’ phase, the NT government will “[r]evise the ICT Services Contracting Model” for ICT procurement in order to encourage local participation in government ICT services market.