COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of digital transformation for governments and the broader economy. The 2021 Digital Government Readiness Indicator reveals three jurisdictions considered to be “digital government ready”: New South Wales, Federal and New Zealand (Central).
It is of no surprise then that these three jurisdictions have been in a position to effectively manage the pandemic by leveraging digital capabilities. Agile responses to sharing health data, providing citizens advice through multichannel formats and contact-tracing programs have been a feature of the response to COVID-19 by these leading jurisdictions.
Interjurisdictional collaboration was identified as a significant trend in the 2020 edition of the DGRI and this continues with the 2021 iteration. With the emergence of the global pandemic, its importance has been prioritised by all jurisdictions, particularly through attendance at forums such as the Data and Digital Ministers’ Meeting (DDMM).
Although some jurisdictions have fallen in this years’ edition of the DGRI, all have registered significant improvements since the inaugural DGRI published in 2016. The lowest score registered in the 2016 DGRI was 4.1 but now it is 6.8 with a clear majority of jurisdictions in the 8.0-plus range.
“Digital government ready” jurisdictions
The three jurisdictions that are considered “digital government ready” have largely moved beyond policy enablers and are now committed to extensive new policy initiative funding across government. They are also working towards implementing emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) through new governance structures, strategy and funding.
New South Wales retains its top position in the leaderboard for the sixth consecutive time, slightly increasing its score. The $1.6bn Digital Restart Fund, administered by the Department of Customer Service has propelled the state into a digital-first attitude beyond all other jurisdictions assessed in the DGRI. NSW has consistently invested and produced policy aimed at unlocking the benefits of emerging technologies such as AI and Digital Twin.
The Federal government improved its overall score to retain its second place on the leaderboard. Large funding commitments, a focus on cyber security and its role in coordinating collaboration between the Australian jurisdictions are notable. The government’s work is now concerned with standing up WofG digital platforms, such as the Trusted Digital Identity Framework, to achieve the government’s goals of digitising service delivery.
A new entrant to the DGRI, New Zealand came in third. Its long-time standing as a global and early leader of digital government is matched by regular updates to digital strategy progress, procurement reform and use of emerging technologies – particularly AI. This year also marked the first time New Zealand participated in the ADDC (now DDMM), driven by the need for an effective, collaborative response to the pandemic.
The Australian Capital Territory (ACT), the second smallest jurisdiction by population, produced the most significant improvement this year, moving to fourth overall. With a score of 8.9, ACT now finds itself within a whisker of achieving the “Digital Ready” benchmark which is set at a score of 9.0. A new digital strategy has seen a renewed focus on citizen-centric digital service delivery through the Access Canberra service.
South Australia is in fifth with a new digital strategy and procurement reforms underway. South Australia has taken cues from NSW, establishing its own Digital Restart Fund to fund a variety of digital transformation projects across the public service.
The Northern Territory increased its overall score, however remained in seventh place. The Territory has made significant gains throughout the life of the DGRI thanks to strong delivery on its digital strategy initiatives. A stronger leadership drive for digital transformation following an election will likely see its scoring continue to improve.
Tasmania no longer occupies the lowest position on the leaderboard, with a small increase to its index score. Recent improvements to its procurement process and significant budget funding puts the state in a good position to make more gains in future DGRI reports.
Victoria registered a significant fall, largely due to an outdated digital strategy. Broader digital policy enablers have lessened the impact, leaving the state at sixth place overall. Big funding commitments, particularly towards redeveloping its approach to citizen-centric service delivery, indicate that the government is likely to jump up the leaderboard in the 2022 iteration.
Queensland fell to eighth place. A lack of strategy updates contributed to the lower score but MoG changes and the establishment of the Queensland Government Customer and Digital Group is a step to address these issues.
Western Australia now sits in last place, with the only sub-7.0 score. This is the result of an outdated digital strategy, a lack of new digital initiative funding, and slow progress on citizen-centric digital service delivery. Its active participation and collaboration on digital inclusion and stabilisation to its governance structure indicates that the state’s score may improve significantly in future DGRI iterations.
Download the 2021 edition of the Intermedium Digital Government Readiness Indicator Report here.